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Open Letter to EU Trade Commissioner Lamy Concerning the Transatlantic Business Dialogue

An open letter sent to EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy today, by 20 groups from 11 European countries (all part of the "Seattle to Brussels Network") as well as several members of the European Parliament urges him and the rest of the European Commission delegation to cancel their planned participation in the upcoming "CEO Summit" of the Transatlantic Business Dialogue (TABD). The groups are "deeply concerned about the inappropriate, undemocratic powers" of the TABD. The TABD announced earlier this week that it considers moving its summit (scheduled for 11-12 October) to Washington D.C. instead of the planned venue, the Swedish capital Stockholm. Regardless what the venue will be, the EC withdrawing its participation would be a long overdue step towards disengaging itself from the TABD process.

Despite the possible change of venue of the TABD conference, Corporate Europe Observatory, ATTAC Sweden, Friends of the Earth and other groups will go ahead with the counter-summit in Stockholm on October 12 and 13. The counter-summit is intended to inform the Swedish public and to build NGO strategies to undermine the TABD's inappropriate powers.

For more information about the counter summit, contact CEO. Preliminary programme now available!

To sign-on to the statement, send us an e-mail with the name of your organisation.

Dear Mr. Lamy,

With this letter, signed by 20 groups from 11 European countries, we appeal to you and the rest of the European Commission delegation not to attend the Transatlantic Business Dialogue (TABD)'s CEO Conference in Stockholm, 11-12 October 2001.We are deeply concerned about the inappropriate, undemocratic powers over trade policies and regulatory decision-making granted to large corporations through the TABD process.

The TABD is much more than just another example of a corporate lobby group influencing and manipulating the political environment on behalf of its ember companies - it has the advantage of having been initiated and nurtured by governments. Through the TABD, EU and US-based corporations develop policy demands which (parts of) the European Commission and the US government then attempt to implement. Government support for the TABD process is reflected not only by the active participation of high-level officials in the business dialogue's conferences, but also by the fact that TABD representatives and government officials in Brussels and Washington D.C. are cooperating on a daily basis to implement the business demands. The TABD process takes place in the absence of even minimum transparency. What's more, in sharp contrast with the TABD's powers, the transatlantic consumer, labour and environment dialogues have not been granted any role of importance in shaping EU-US trade and regulatory policies.

Arguing that "the new obstacles to trade are now domestic regulations", the TABD produces deregulation hit lists that include numerous democratically established environmental, health or safety regulations on both sides of the Atlantic. Not only existing protective legislation is at stake - the EU-US 'Early Warning' system for potential trade conflicts (established in late 1999 at the demand of the TABD), has given the business dialogue a new tool to obstruct, delay and/or weaken proposals for new progressive regulations. Issues that the TABD has brought into the Early Warning system include restrictions on EU market access for genetically modified agricultural products, plans for a phase-out of HFCs (potent greenhouse gasses) and a possible ban on animal testing for cosmetics. To further tighten corporate control, the TABD now demands that trade interests are further 'upstreamed' in the decision making process, for instance through 'trade impact assessments' for all new regulatory and legislative proposals.

Another major component of the TABD's work is shaping joint EU-US strategies in international trade negotiations, most prominently within the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Transatlantic business consensus is used by the EU and US to overcome differences in their WTO negotiating positions. In this way, large corporations are able to effectively pre-cook the outcome of WTO negotiations, taking advantage of deeply unequal power relations within the WTO, an organisation dominated by the large Northern trade blocs. The TABD's main demand for the Stockholm meeting is that the WTO's Ministerial Conference in Qatar in early November launches a broad new round of talks on trade and investment deregulation. We find it entirely inappropriate for European Commissioners and other top EC officials to meet for two days with the transatlantic business elite in an attempt to hammer out consensus negotiating goals and strategies for Qatar. The plans are completely at odds with the EC's claims that lessons have been learned from Seattle and that the proposed new round will promote "the interests of developing countries" and "the concerns of civil society". Clearly, the EC intends to continue the harmful and deeply undemocratic practice of shaping its WTO policies and negotiating strategies around corporate priorities. We remind you that a global coalition of civil society groups continues to oppose the EU's proposals for a new WTO round, including the expansion of the corporate-biased WTO rules to new areas like foreign investment. Instead of another round of WTO negotiations to accelerate trade and investment liberalisation, the coalition calls for a fundamentally different set of trade policies, centered around democratising decision-making, global social justice and environmental sustainability.

As the international backlash against the neoliberal model of globalisation continues to grow and calls for the pursuit of alternative development models gather momentum, the Stockholm meeting is a crucial point for the European Commission. We call upon you and the rest of the EC delegation to cancel your participation as a first step in breaking the links between the EC and the TABD. Instead of working with corporations on deregulating and 'harmonising' downwards, the EC should promote binding international regulations on corporate activities to guarantee rising environmental and social standards around the world.

Signed by:

* Anti-Globalisation Network, United Kingdom
* Association Transnationale, France
* ATTAC Sweden
* Blue 21, Germany
* Center for Encounters and Active Non-Violence, Austria
* Centro Nuovo Modello di Sviluppo, Italy
* Cornerhouse, United Kingdom
* Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), The Netherlands
* Friends of the Earth EWNI (England, Wales and Northern Ireland)
* Independent Salzburg Platform Against Nuclear Dangers (PLAGE), Austria
* Les Amis de la Terre (Friends of the Earth), France
* Maan ystävät ry (Friends of the Earth), Finland
* Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth), The Netherlands
* People & Planet, United Kingdom
* Salzburg Forum against MAI/WTO, Austria
* SOS WTO, Denmark
* URFIG (Unité de Recherche, de Formation et d'Information sur la Globalisation),           Brussels-Paris-Geneva
* Werkgroep Globalisering, The Netherlands
* World Development Movement, United Kingdom
* World Economy, Ecology & Development (WEED), Germany

Members of European Parliament:
Dr. Caroline Lucas (Greens, United Kingdom)
Per Gahrton (Greens, Sweden)
Erik Meijer (United European Left/Nordic Green Left, The Netherlands)

To sign-on to the statement, send us an e-mail with the name of your organisation.

 Paulus Potterstraat 20 1071 DA Amsterdam Netherlands tel/fax: +31-20-612-7023 e-mail: <ceo@xs4all.nl>