Transnational corporations (TNCs) today do not just lobby their ‘home’ governments, but simultaneously participate in policy processes in Washington, London, Berlin, and Delhi, for instance, as well as at the European Union or the World Bank, writes Doris Fuchs in ‘Business Power in Global Governance’ (www.vivagroupindia.com). Looking at the amount of financial, organisational, technical, and human resources large business actors can draw on in efforts to influence policy outcomes, the author wonders if business may well have a disproportionate influence on politics.
“Lobbying work, which previously was associated with a low status in the business community, now has become the job of high-level executives with a direct line of communication to the CEO. In fact, bringing the CEO to Washington and arranging private meetings has turned into one of the prime strategies of corporate lobbyists in the US.”
Playground for interest groups
The EU is probably the world’s largest playground for interest groups, having shown the fastest recent growth in lobbying activities in any democratic system, Fuchs observes. Stories of members of the European Parliament arriving at meetings to find all seats and all documentation taken by lobbyists are notorious, she adds. Of interest are data such as that seventy-five percent of all associations active at the EU headquarters are business associations, while unions constitute less than 5 per cent.
Healthily, however, the extent to which an increase in lobbying activities translates into an increase in influence is mitigated by public actors and competing interests, the book notes. “The distribution of decision-making capacity among a large number of governmental actors and bureaucrats can help them obtain more autonomy from demands by interest groups. Moreover, policymakers at the supranational level tend to be less dependent on campaign finance.”
Yet, resource-rich interest groups can have an advantage over poorer ones, as in the example of ‘the expensive video conferencing system installed by the World Economic Forum, which allows its members to communicate directly with the UN Secretary General as well as with the directors of the IMF and World Bank.’
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