Revealed: the hidden web of big-business money backing Europe and America's pro-TTIP "think tanks"


The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is an EU-US "trade agreement" that will allow corporations to sue governments in secret tribunals to force them to repeal their safety, environmental and labor laws.

TTIP's most influential backers are supposedly neutral think tanks that publish papers, research and reports supporting the idea of TTIP as beneficial to Europeans and Americans.

Bas van Beek, Jilles Mast and Sophia Beunder from the Dutch "Platform of Authentic Journalism" has published a detailed research report on the hidden funding behind these think tanks, and the way that they are used to launder policy recommendations from governments and corporations to give them the legitimacy an "objective" endorsement.

They've published their data-sets under open data licenses, and plugged them into a powerful visualization tool so you can verify their work yourself, and build on it.

Philippe de Backer, member of the European Parliament, does not believe that funding threatens independence. “Sometimes they publish reports that are against the interests of businesses,” he argues. “CEPS recruits the cream of the crop. They really aren’t about to put their reputation on the line just like that.”

That’s too simplistic, in Ferdi de Ville’s opinion. “I don’t think that each of their studies is being scrutinized, but I do think that they are aware that they cannot pursue a line that is in conflict with the corporate interests of those who are funding them. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”

And there are plenty of crumbs to go around, for business people and policymakers alike. There are enough options for early risers too. CEPS offers member businesses the “unique opportunity” to exchange ideas with senior officials during a corporate breakfast in an informal setting. On two occasions and under the watchful eye of the director, CEPS’s corporate members ate croissants with former trade commissioner Karel de Gucht, Cecilia Malmström’s predecessor. In the U.S., meanwhile, Damon Wilson The invitation, obtained under the Dutch freedom of information act , the executive vice-president of the Atlantic Council, invited Michael Froman, the American head negotiator, to a dinner on the occasion of the Atlantic Council’s annual Distinguished Leadership Awards.

Documents that we obtained after appealing to the EU freedom of information act showed that the Atlantic Council and Michael Froman’s office were quite intimate with each other. When the Atlantic Council compiled a report on the benefits of TTIP for small and medium-sized businesses, they wanted Froman to attend the presentation. His assistant, fondly referred to as Becca, The email exchange between Garrett Workman and Becca asked whether representatives from the business community will be present. “We’re inviting a few of the small businesses, yes,” replied Garrett Workman of the Atlantic Council, “but have to figure out how we’re paying for them to come. Working on that with FedEx.”

Big business orders its pro-TTIP arguments from these think tanks [Tomas Vanheste/The Correspondent]

How we looked into think tanks and TTIP (and feel free to use our data!) [Dimitri Tokmetzis/The Correspondent]

Think Tanks and TTIP [Data visualization/]

(Image: Esther Aarts)

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