Lobbying is probably one of the oldest power games in the history of mankind. Since rules are
established, people or interest groups who are affected by these rules fight against it, for
whatever reason. And lobbying is one of the most preferred tools, and expensive too. Everybody
knows some famous stories about lobbyists around the world.
Some weeks ago, we wrote about the new Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and
Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulations. According to recent investigations, it is no wonder
that the growing regulatory influence of the European Union (EU) led to the presence in Brussels of
15,000 to 20,000 lobbyists acting for industry and commerce associations, in-house public relations
departments or specialist companies, lawyers, and non-governmental organizations.
It is said that BASF, Dow Chemical and DuPont have worked to make environmental and health
regulations of chemicals – regulations such as REACH – more industry-friendly. The Bromine Science
and Environmental Forum (BSEF) sought to prevent an EU ban on brominated flame retardants.
A key target for lobbyists is the European Commission, which proposes new legislation and
controls the implementation of EU regulations. It also encourages companies to participate in
collaborative research, using EU funds as an incentive. One such collaboration under the funny
acronym “Leapfrog” (Leadership for European Apparel Productions From Research along Original
Guidelines), for example, aims to make technological breakthroughs in apparel manufacturing.
Most textile lobbyists in Brussels focus on EU trade policy, including: trade relations with
leading textile-exporting countries; the EU stance on the Doha Round; negotiations of bilateral
free trade agreements; efforts to get better access to markets in China and India; reforms of
origin rules; and “Made in ___” labels for apparel imported into the EU. Other targets include the
Council of Ministers and the Textile-Clothing committee within the European Parliament, and …,
and …, and ….
Very Active Textile Industry …
Lobbying is also undertaken by Brussels-based industry associations such as the European
Apparel and Textile Organisation (Euratex), Comité International de la Rayonne et des Fibres
Synthétiques/International Association of the Viscose and Man-Made Fibers (CIRFS), the European
Association for Textile Polyolefins (EATP), the European Synthetic Turf Organisation (ESTO), the
International Association Serving the Nonwovens and Related Industries (EDANA), and Eurocoton,
which represents the cotton and allied textile industries in 11 EU countries and is known in Asia
for its tough policy on anti-dumping. The International Wool Textile Organisation (IWTO),
represents 4,000 wool and textile companies, while the Asociación de Colectividades Textiles
Europeas (ACTE) represents the interests of more than 70 territories with strong textile and
fashion sectors in eight European countries.
… And The European Sporting Goods Manufacturers
The Federation of the European Sporting Goods Industry (FESI), meanwhile, defends European
sporting goods manufacturers’ interests in Brussels and includes brands such as Asics, Diadora,
Lotto, Nike, Puma, and Reebok among its members. Commerce associations include the European
Association of Fashion Retailers (AEDT); Eurocommerce, which represents the interests of companies
engaged in retail, wholesale and international trade; and the Foreign Trade Association (FTA),
which campaigns for the free importation of goods into the EU and fights protectionism outside
Europe. The FTA has also established the Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI), which
provides retail, importing and brand companies with a system for improving working conditions.
Money Makes The World Go Round
It might be useful, or not, to think about who’s paying the expense accounts for 15,000 to
20,000 people walking around Brussels, inviting parliament members 24 hours a day to have a chat,
or so. Maybe it would be worthwhile to think about opening a five-star hotel or top-class
restaurant in Brussels – or at least to be a lobbyist.
May 20, 2008