In November, fourteen ‘’WTO-diplomats” from African, Asian and Latin American countries visited Clingendael for a one-week training in ‘’Trends in international trade and policy planning”. The training was part of their 9 month traineeship at the WTO secretariat in Geneva.
A major part of the course was devoted to an assignment which focused on the role of the private sector in government policy planning. The Netherlands are quite unique in this, considering the high density of interest groups and their level of institutionalization. In groups, the participants visited three organizations: Dutch employers’ organization VNO-NCW, entrepreneurial association FME (focusing on the Dutch technological industry) and multinational company Siemens. They interviewed government relations officers on the strategies and methods for influencing the policy planning process. On the final course day, the WTO diplomats presented the outcomes to eachother and made comparisons with private sector interest representation in their home countries.
How does the interest representation of an industry sector or company take place? How do they get access to the policy arena? Why are companies becoming member of trade associations? What are the most effective policy instruments? What are the channels of influence at the EU level? These and many other questions were explored during the three ‘’matchmaking visits”.
Government decisions and legal regulations have a profound impact on business. Each organization is trying to protect its interests at the government level using various policy instruments, ranging from lobbying to research, and from trade missions to the use of media. Their engagement is not limited to the national level, but also extends to the EU and global level by membership in European and international associations. This enables for a large variety of channels of influence.
The lobby paradise
National laws are increasingly set and determined in Brussels. Between 70 and 80% of all Dutch laws and regulations are said to originate in Brussels. Because of this so-called ‘Europeanization’ of national legislation, companies and associations invest a lot in good contacts with stakeholders like the European Commission and the European Parliament. With an estimated 30.000 lobbyists trying to win the hearts and minds of the European decision and legislation makers, Brussel can be referred to as a ‘lobby paradise’. To exert maximum influence, VNO-NCW is represented in Brussels with its own office and is member of European employers’ organization BusinessEurope. FME is actively lobbying in Brussels through its sister association Orgalime, the European engineering industries association. By being an active member of both FME and VNO-NCW, Siemens also has direct access to these channels of influence and networks. Click here to read more about lobbying and interest representation.
The Clingendael Academy offers twice a year a course ‘Advocacy and lobbying in the EU’ . The training is for (policy) employees of the central government, decentralized authorities and public affairs employees at businesses or other organizations that are directly confronted with European legislative processes. Click here to read and sign up for this course.
25 November 2014