Corporate Europe Observatory – JEFTA: An exclusive trade between EU negotiators and big business

Once again the EU political elite is pushing through the interests of international corporations at the cost of the people of Europe and their environment.

Cross-posted from Corporate Europe Observatory

Since December 2017, the European Commission has been running a race against time. Its trade department is doing its best to fast-track the approval of a trade deal between the European Union and Japan.

While the deal is officially called the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement, the nature of the agreement is far from a genuine partnership: Many interest groups, in Japan and in the EU, have not had an equal say in the negotiations of this deal.

The negotiations for the Japan-EU free trade deal started in March 2013 and concluded in December 2017. Commission files obtained via freedom of information requests show that between January 2014 and January 2017, the European Commission’s trade department (DG Trade) had 213 closed-door meetings with lobbyists to discuss the negotiations.

190 of those meetings (89%) were with business lobbyists while only 9 (4%) were with public interest groups like NGOs, farmers’ unions and consumer groups. No meetings at all were held with representatives of trade unions or with federations of small and medium-sized enterprises, and the remaining 7% of meetings were with other actors such as public institutions and thinks tanks. (Check the full data set and how we gathered it here).

When Corporate Europe Observatory tried to obtain a similar list of meetings for the year 2017, DG Trade refused to publish this information, arguing that the necessary work to provide this list would be too “burdensome” and that the Commission is devoting all of its resources to concluding the negotiations with Japan.

The corporate lobby groups which had by far the most encounters with DG Trade during the negotiations of the trade deal between Japan and the EU (January 2014 until January 2017) are:

  • BusinessEurope, the European employers’ federation and one of the most powerful lobby groups in the EU
  • European Services Forum, a lobby group of large services companies
  • CEEV, the lobby group representing the European and international wine sector. It represents more than 7.000 companies.
  • ACEA, the European car lobby
  • BDI, the Federation of German Industries, the most powerful voice of German businesses in Brussels

These figures reveal the strong bias of EU trade deals: Big companies are driving the negotiations, shaping the rules for global trade however they need to maximise profits.. The winners take it all. As for the others? With their voices sidelined during trade negotiations, the interests of consumers, blue-collar workers, environmental campaigners and small and medium-sized enterprises are of little consequence to the European Commission, it seems.

The EU refers to a EU-Japan trade partnership. But looking at who they partner with to facilitate the deal, the only genuine partnership developing is that between EU negotiators and multinational corporations.



  1. Well done for bringing these facts to light. The more we know the more we can build the opposition to the corporate takeover.
    Everywhere you look there is corruption and we need to expose it and insist that the liars in government stand down. It is the same in the UK. The government only make deals that suit the corporations and the public get austerity.

  2. Hello again from the UK,
    I have started reading your articles and I am glad there are more
    people saying these things.
    The politicians are bribed by big companies and we get the austerity and the hardship for no good reason.
    The euro project was a bad move from the start. All the countries lost their sovereignty.
    Now they can make no decisions for themselves and their economic strategy is dictated by morons.
    What is needed is a fiscal stimulus of government money to boost the economy and stop the austerity immediately.
    All the honest economists say this.
    We are fighting the corruption here in the UK.
    Keep up your good work
    All the best
    Ron Lawley

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