from the one-law-for-the-rich,-one-law-for-the-poor dept
One of the key problems with TAFTA/TTIP is the same one that plagued ACTA and has recently been highlighted with TPP: the complete lack of any meaningful transparency. However much the negotiators may claim that transparency is important to them, there's no evidence to support that view. Or perhaps the politicians think the existence of conferences like one being held in Brussels next January provide enough opportunities for anyone who wants to convey their views to the EU's Chief Negotiator, say. He'll be attending, along with several other senior European Commission officials, according to the program.
Unlike many overpriced conferences, the costs for this one seem quite reasonable: it charges less for NGOs and not-for-profit organizations than for corporate visitors, and will try to accommodate those who can't afford even that:
We realise the importance of including all groups in the discussions at our events, and will always do our best to ensure that nobody is excluded due to not being able to afford the conference fee.
That's to be commended, because otherwise members of the public whose means are very limited are inevitably excluded from such important opportunities to make their views known to key political figures in the TAFTA/TTIP negotiations (although they still have the cost of getting to Brussels...) But there's one area where money most certainly talks at this conference. The "Sponsorship Prospectus" (pdf) spells out some of things that can be bought. For example, for a mere €4000, you can be "Exclusive Host of VIP & Speaker Dinner" with the following benefits:
If you find the charge for tickets a barrier to attending, please let us know and we will endeavour to come to an arrangement to facilitate your participation. Please note however that this applies to individuals, unfunded academics/students and representatives of small charities, not businesses, individuals funded by an organisation, or larger charities/not-for-profit organisations.
Opportunity to speak during dinner debate
Then there are really major sponsorships that aren't even up for grabs -- things like becoming the conference's "Platinum Sponsor", which turns out to be the Business Software Alliance (BSA). I wonder what the BSA receives in exchange for that sponsorship: special access to some of the key people taking part, certainly, and probably the EU's Chief Negotiator too. Given that the BSA was originally in favor of SOPA, we can guess what its representatives at this conference will be saying to him when they meet.
Three-course dinner for speakers and high-level invited guests
Three seats at dinner reserved for your representatives or guests
Corporate identity displayed in dining area during dinner
Corporate identity included on menu cards
Full page advert in programme
3 complimentary delegate places
And that's the real problem here. Those able to pay for sponsorship are granted a level of direct and concentrated access that the mere conference plebs -- even if admitted free of charge thanks to the organizer's laudable generosity -- will never enjoy. That might not matter if there were plenty of other ways for the public to make their views known to the TAFTA/TTIP negotiators, but as we know, there aren't any.
Which means that the vast disparity in influence that exists between the rich and powerful who already have an inside track to TAFTA/TTIP officials, and the hundreds of millions of people in whose name the negotiations are supposedly being held, will be made even greater by events such as the one taking place in Brussels next year. That's not the fault of the conference organizers, of course, but it's certainly is the fault of the US and EU politicians that mouth platitudes about TAFTA/TTIP's transparency while failing to put into practice.