Charlie Skelton: Bilderberg & TTIP: A Lobbying Scandal Waiting To Happen

Tony Gosling tony at
Thu May 22 12:39:54 BST 2014

Britain =>12 May 2014
really owns the UK? => 9 May 2014

Bilderberg And Transatlantic Trade: A Lobbying Scandal Waiting To Happen

Charlie Skelton is a writer on Have I Got News 
For You. He will be covering the conference for 
the Guardian, and tweeting on 
He has helped put together a guide to the 
Bilderberg Conference at 

Next week, at the Marriott Hotel in Copenhagen, 
the annual trade and policy summit held by the 
Bilderberg Group will throw open its doors for 
three days of top level talks, from May 29th to 
June 1st. I say “throw open its doors”... the 
doors will remain, as ever, firmly closed to the 
public and press. Unless you happen to own a 
newspaper, or run a publishing conglomerate, or 
be the Executive Chairman of Google, chances are you're not going.

It's remarkable how many bank bosses and 
corporate CEOs manage to clear their diary, every 
year, for a full three days of conferencing at 
Bilderberg. Last year, BP sent its Group Chief 
Executive, the Michelin Group sent its CEO, while 
HSBC was represented by both the Group Chairman 
and the Vice Chairman. From Goldman Sachs came 
two board members, including their Vice Chairman. 
And Royal Dutch Shell left a skeleton crew back 
at headquarters: the company sent its Chairman, 
CEO, and CFO – and in case that wasn't enough, 
they also sent along a director, Josef Ackermann. 
Who's also on the board of Investor AB, the £20 
billion asset management company. Which also sent 
its CEO and Chairman. You get the picture.

All this corporate brass spending three days 
conferencing with media moguls and billionaire 
investors wouldn't matter so much, but for the 
fact that quite a few of the participants who get 
locked away with them are politicians. And senior politicians at that.

In 2013, the Bilderberg conference was 
by seven Finance Ministers, three Foreign 
Ministers, two deputy Prime Ministers, and two 
serving Prime Ministers: Mark Rutte, the PM of 
Holland, and our very own David Cameron. With 
them: the President of the European Commission, 
José Manuel Barroso; EU Commissioner, Viviane 
Reding; the head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde; 
and various other politicians and policymakers.

Now, if you're in charge of HSBC, or Telecom 
Italia – or if you're Henry Kravis, running the 
famously aggressive $40 billion private equity 
firm KKR – then you might well regard such a 
luxurious length of private access to this many 
senior policymakers as something of a boon. Three 
days worth clearing your diary for.

People often wonder what Bilderberg “is”. And the 
simplest answer is: a gigantic 
opportunity. A fair few of the corporate 
commandants who attend the conference also hold, 
besides their various executive roles and 
directorships, senior positions in large and 
influential trade associations and lobby groups – 
groups with snappy names like the European Round 
Table of Industrialists, the Foreign Investment 
Advisory Council, and the European Financial Services Round Table.

One example: the current chairman of Bilderberg’s 
Steering Committee, which is the group’s 
governing body – Henri de Castries. Besides being 
the Chairman and CEO of the investment and 
insurance giant AXA, and the head of Bilderberg, 
he’s also a member of the aforementioned European 
Financial Services Round Table. And in his spare 
time he’s on the board of Nestlé. This is 
typical: pretty much everyone at Bilderberg wears 
a dozen different hats. The queue at the cloakroom after dinner is a nightmare.

One of the best represented lobbying 
organisations at Bilderberg is 
Business (BAB), a transatlantic, big business 
advocacy group, which boasts of being able to 
exert “regulatory influence” through “high-level 
representation to Government on policy issues”.

At last year's Bilderberg conference, there were 
six members of BAB's International Advisory Board:
    * Ian Davis, Chairman, Rolls-Royce
    * Robert Dudley, CEO, BP (at time of meeting)
    * Douglas J Flint, Group Chairman, HSBC
    * John Micklethwait, Editor-in-Chief, the Economist
    * Peter Sutherland KPMG, Chairman, Goldman Sachs International
    * Peter Voser, CEO, Shell (at time of meeting)

No wonder BAB's Chairman is able to say:

“Access – to the right connections, audiences, 
influence and intelligence – is key to business 
success. And high-quality access is at the heart 
of the business advantage we offer on both sides of the Atlantic.”

For lobby groups like BritishAmerican Business, 
Bilderberg is Wimbledon, the Champions League and 
Christmas rolled into one. It's the Holy Grail of 
“access”. Never mind having to loiter around a 
lobby trying to flag down a passing politician, 
this is one lobby the politicians travel to 
themselves. Generally on a flight paid for by the taxpayer.

Of course, none of the lobby groups or trade 
associations whose members are at Bilderberg are 
officially “there”. But membership of a lobby 
group is not something you take off like a 
raincoat at the door of the hotel. Douglas Flint 
doesn’t magically stop being a member of 
BritishAmerican Business’s International Advisory 
Board when he sits down for breakfast opposite 
George Osborne, any more than he stops being the 
Group Chairman of HSBC when he’s playing late 
night billiards with Christine Lagarde.

To see how Bilderberg creates such a perfect 
storm of lobbying, it pays to look closer at how 
an individual policy might be promoted there. One 
of the key 
currently being pushed by BritishAmerican 
Business, for example, is the giant TTIP free 
trade deal between the EU and the US – a policy 
that chimes with Bilderberg’s peculiarly 
transatlantic vision. BAB has been playing:

“a leadership role, with government and the 
business community, in promoting the prospective 
EU-US Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP).”

Of course, BAB is just one of the business lobby 
groups currently banging the drum for TTIP. For 
example, the European Round Table of 
Industrialists (which is well represented at 
Bilderberg) is part of the “Business Alliance for 
TTIP”, the sole aim of which is to “advocate for 
the successful conclusion of TTIP”.

Bilderberg grants these pro-TTIP advocates 
untrammelled access to the very people they’re 
advocating to: the politicians and trade 
negotiators. Present at the 2013 Bilderberg 
meeting was Kenneth Clarke, one of the 
government's key TTIP negotiators. Not to mention 
the seven Finance Ministers, and other assorted 
economic policymakers (see Lord Mandelson to your right).

Alongside them was José Manuel Barroso, President 
of the European Commission – which is negotiating 
TTIP with the US on behalf of the EU and its 
Member States. And 
Cameron, who turned up to take part in what 
Downing Street described as “a discussion around 
domestic and global economic issues.”

Cameron, of course, is the UK's representative at 
the European Council, which will, when the time 
comes, examine the negotiated trade deal and either pass it or reject it.

So, you've got TTIP negotiators, TTIP lobbyists 
and TTIP arbiters, locked away together for three 
days, with no press oversight. It’s a heady mix. 
And considering that TTIP was top of the 
conference agenda (under the heading “Can the US 
and Europe grow faster and create jobs?”) it's 
hard not to see the conference itself as just 
another phase of the notoriously 
TTIP negotiations.

In all of this, it's pointless looking to the 
lobbyists for greater transparency: it's entirely 
in their interests to keep the process out of the 
public eye. It would be like asking a fox to come 
up with ways to improve chicken shed security.

Likewise, there's no particular reason why the 
various CEOs and investment fund billionaires at 
Bilderberg are going to want the press snooping 
around these discussions. They prefer to 
glad-hand EU Commissioners and schmooze Prime Ministers behind closed doors.

As for the Bilderberg Group itself, it’s a 
private organisation, with a 60-year history of 
holding intensely private meetings: transparency 
doesn't tend to make it onto their agenda. With 
so many politicians present, it would be nice to 
see some proper minutes of these meetings 
published, but that’s not going to happen unless 
the press and public push for it.

For now, if we want transparency at Bilderberg, 
it's going to have to be provided by the 
politicians. Luckily, many of them who go to 
Bilderberg are avowed champions of 
Like David Cameron (Bilderberg 2008, 2013) who 
launched a war on out-of-control lobbying in a 
speech back in 2010, when he attacked the 
“far-too-cosy relationship between politics, government, business and money”.

In that 
Cameron described lobbying as “the next big 
scandal waiting to happen.” At Bilderberg, that 
scandal happens every year. This year, it’s 
happening in Copenhagen, at the Marriott Hotel, from May 29th to June 1st.

See you there!

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