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NGOs oppose relaunch of controversial business dialogue - Corporate Europe Observatory

23 June 2003, 18:32 CET

Civil society groups oppose the planned relaunch of the Transatlantic Business Dialogue (TABD) during the EU-US Summit this week. "Boosting the power of business over trade and regulatory policies is the worst possible response to the escalating number of EU-US trade conflicts", says Erik Wesselius of the Amsterdam-based Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO).

Tuesday June 24th, EU Commissioners Pascal Lamy (Trade) and Erkki Liikanen (Enterprise) will join US Undersecretary for International Trade Grant Aldonas at a Washington DC meeting with business leaders to discuss the future of the TABD. Through the TABD, over 100 of the largest EU and US-based corporations have since 1995 worked closely with the European Commission and the US Administration to remove "obstacles to transatlantic trade" and pursue EU-US leadership in the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Civil society groups from the European Union and the US have in the last seven years consistently criticised the TABD process as unaccountable, undemocratic and harmful to environment and consumer concerns. Annual TABD conferences in Cincinnati (2000), Stockholm (2001) and Chicago (2002) were met with demonstrations, counter- summits and other protests. In October 2001, a coalition of European NGOs and Members of the European Parliament wrote an open letter to
EU Commissioners Lamy and Liikanen, asking them to end the European Commission's close links with the TABD.

The new initiative to relaunch the TABD, driven by the European Commission, shows that the Commission continues to ignore civil society calls for democratising EU trade policy and reorienting it towards environmental and social sustainability. Erik Wesselius, policy analyst at Corporate Europe Observatory says: "The European Commission's continued support for the TABD is at odds with democratic trade policy-making. As a step towards reducing excessive corporate power, the TABD process should be abolished immediately."

This is particularly urgent in the light of the Ministerial
Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) coming up in mid-September (in Cancun, Mexico). With WTO negotiations currently in a deadlock, the US Administration and the European Commission hope a stronger role for EU and US businesses can bring a breakthrough. In the months leading up to the Cancun summit, civil society groups will step up their campaigns against the EU's corporate-driven trade agenda, demanding an end to corporate-government alliances like the TABD.

Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) is a European-based research and campaign group targeting the threats to democracy, equity, social justice and the environment posed by the economic and political power of corporations and their lobby groups.

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