As a massive lobby fight swirls around TTIP negotiations, the extent of the fast-spinning revolving door between the public sector and the prospective private beneficiaries of the deal threatens to create major conflicts of interest and tighten the corporate stranglehold on TTIP trade talks, says a new report released Wednesday.
According to the report, the revolving door shuffles high-level European decision-makers and private sector corporate advisers back and forth with ease, which strengthens the corporate lobby representing European big business pushing for approval of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
“The fact that so many can cross smoothly from the public to private sectors or vice versa, indicates the shared interests and ideologies that can exist,” says the report.
The Brussels-based watchdog organization Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) details in the report cases of 15 former European Commission or U.K. government officials now working in some of the biggest corporate lobbies to influence TTIP talks on key issues including food and agriculture, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, investor-state dispute settlement, and other corporate interests.
“Whether the revolving door is a cause or an outcome of these synergies (between business interests and the public sector) is not so easy to determine,” says CEO in the report. “But the synergies are there and we believe the revolving door exacerbates the corporate capture of TTIP negotiations.”
The report comes as the tenth round of TTIP talks between the European Union and United States get underway in Brussels, inching the controversial deal – set to be the world's largest trade agreement – closer to becoming a reality.
CEO has shown that agribusiness lobbies have been the largest force in closed-door TTIP talks, followed by Big Telecom, Big Pharma, and other sectors.
And these powerful lobby groups get plenty of airtime in the negotiation process. According to CEO data, private sector lobbies have had some 100 meetings with European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and her staff, while public interest groups have been granted just 22 meetings.
According to CEO, the 15 cases detailed in the report are only a partial view or “TTIP of the iceberg” of the revolving door phenomenon due to secrecy. Despite being a major public interest issue, lack of transparency makes it difficult to track the coming and going of public sector officials, says CEO.
While the EU public-private revolving door may not come as a huge surprise given similar cases have already been documented in the U.S., it does heighten concerns about corporate interests dominating trade talks and sidelining the widespread public outcry over the pending deal.
Last week, European Parliament gave the green light to the TTIP by approving a draft version of the agreement, fueling public outrage over the deal that critics say will usher in an undemocratic consolidation of corporate power.
According to social and environmental rights groups, the TTIP includes measures that grant special privileges to foreign investors that will undermine food and safety standards, public health, and efforts to tackle climate change while forging closer links with the U.S.
Talks between the EU and U.S. over the pending trade agreement are ongoing, while social movements continue to protest the TTIP and pressure officials to call of the deal.