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At your service: the European Services Forum’s privileged access to the EU Commission over EU trade policy

Corporate Europe Observatory | 15 February 2013

At your service: the European Services Forum’s privileged access to the EU Commission over EU trade policy

A recent documentary on lobbying in the EU highlights the historically intimate links between the EU Commission and European services companies. New research reveals that they are as close as ever, working hand in glove to liberalise and deregulate services markets – from Canada to the ASEAN region, from the US to India.

The Brussels Business, now shown in theatres and on television throughout Europe, reveals how the European Commission served the interests of European service companies years ago. How are things today?

Internal documents reveal the privileged access that the EU Commission grants global service players such as Deutsche Bank, IBM and Vodafone to its trade policy-making. Banded together in an influential lobby group, the European Services Forum (ESF), these big companies receive regular detailed and exclusive briefings on the EU’s free trade negotiations from key EU trade negotiators. The Commission’s trade department (DG Trade) even seems to grant ESF member companies access to sensitive negotiating texts. There are also strong indications that the Commission has been paying the travel costs of ESF staff and members to attend business summits abroad.

High-ranking Commission officials have repeatedly assured the ESF that they are “enthusiastic in working with the ESF”. DG Trade considers itself a “fervent supporter of the interests of the European services industry.”

But many dangers lie in the ESF agenda. Further liberalisation of services markets could limit access to affordable essential services such as water and health care. It could prevent much-needed regulation and supervision in the finance sector, paving the way for future financial crises. It puts downward pressure on wages and labour rights, allowing for deregulated hiring and posting of workers across the globe. If the ESF proposal for investor-state dispute settlement becomes enshrined in EU trade deals, we could also see more costly corporate lawsuits challenging government legislation to protect the environment and public health. And yet the Commission seems to be pushing exactly this agenda.

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 source: CEO