TransAtlantic Business Dialogue

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The TransAtlantic Business Dialogue (TABD) was set up in 1995 by the American Department of Commerce and the European Commission to act as a go-between for American and European business leaders and America cabinet secretaries and European Union (EU) commissioners.
The Transatlantic Policy Network, a free market think tank aimed at strengthening political and corporate links between Europe and America, claims credit for helping set up TABD and says it: “is still actively supporting its development”.1
TABD says that its goal is to achieve “the freest possible exchange of capital, goods, services, people and ideas across the Atlantic”.2
To achieve its aim the TABD says: “We advocate these positions based on issue-specific policy recommendations developed by TABD Working Groups, reviewed by the Joint Policy Committee and endorsed by the Executive Board.”2 There are also the typical networking conferences, seminars and business lunches which bring corporate and political representatives together.
On 1 January 2013, the TABD merged with the European-American Business Council (EABC) and became known as the Transatlantic Business Council (TBC).

A Successful Business Advocate

Murphy and Levidow, in their study on EU/US trade disputes over genetically modified (GM) crops, cited the TABD and the Transatlantic Economic Partnership as “created in the mid to late 1990s to encourage and facilitate transatlantic trade liberalisation” and a constant and effective voice for corporations in that particular battle.3
Indeed the TABD was so successful in its business advocacy that a counterweight organisation was launched. The Trans Atlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD) which links consumer groups in the EU and the US. Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of National Consumers League, described the TACD as vital because: “TABD has a powerful voice at the European Union meetings”.4

A History of Tobacco Links

Documents from the tobacco archive show that within months of opening in 1995 the TABD had written to British American Tobacco asking for support.5
Well-known tobacco lobbyist Stanley Crossick6 identified the TABD as an important organisation in a presentation in 1995 to RJ Reynolds.7
In 1997 the then BAT chairman Lord Simon Cairns attended a TABD meeting in Rome, where he was to brief EU Commissioner (and one of the original drivers behind the TABD) Sir Leon Brittan and “other senior US politicians” on “US extraterritorial legislation in general and Helms Burton in particular”.8 A communique setting out core areas of concern for the TABD was subsequently issued.9
A meeting of the European Policy Centre‘s Forum on Risk in 1998 was attended by Vickie Curtis from BAT.10 The focus of the meeting was how the science of risk as perceived by EU legislators might be influenced in terms favourable to corporate members of the Forum.
It resolved:

The target audience to influence was agreed as EU institutions (the Parliament, Council and Commission) and national decision-makers, international organisations (such as the WTO, OECD and TABD); industry and trade associations; NGOs and other pressure groups including trade unions, the scientific, academic and technical communities and the media. There is a need to define the “hot buttons” of each of these groups at an early stage.10

Philip Morris also took an interest in the possibilities of the TABD. A meeting of the lobby group in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1998, involving senior US and EU executives and government trade officials was highlighted as an opportunity “to promote industry positions on issues raised by the pending Biosafety Protocol” and “industry attendance or participation may be warranted”.11
BAT’s continued interest in the TABD’s activities was highlighted in 2000 in a report from management consultancy C & M International,12 to BAT’s International Political Affairs Manager Andreas Vecchiet. The consultancy said it would monitor TABD discussions relevant to its tobacco client.

Recent Tobacco Activities

British American Tobacco and Philip Morris International are currently TABC members.13
The organisation’s Director General is Tim Bennett. Its EU executive director is Jeffries Briginshaw who previously worked at BAT for more than a decade. 14
In 2011 TABD wrote to the US trade representative and EC Commissioner for Trade Karel de Gucht protesting at Australia’s plain packaging plans and asking them to pass on their concerns.15 The letters argued that the move was wrong on intellectual property grounds – a constant concern for TABD. The organisation also raised these concerns in letters to various members of the Australian government.
A year later, the announcement of plain pack consultation in the UK stirred the international business community. The April 2012 statement expressing deep concern about possible “curtailing intellectual property rights (IP) and branding” was a joint initiative of the TABD, the US Chamber of Commerce, the Emergency Committee for American Trade, the National Association of Manufacturers, the United States Council for International Business and the National Foreign Trade Council.
The statement emphasised the importance of the “rule of law and legal certainty” not just for the business community, but also to ensure innovation and create meaningful jobs. The other issue was the possible increase in smuggling. Furthermore, illicit activity in the tobacco sector that robs the government of revenue, undermines public health objectives, impairs legitimate business and enriches organized crime ought to be a major concern in considering this public consultation.16
In April 2013, the TABD joined forces with the same collective of US trade associations to challenge the revision of the EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD). In a letter 17 to Mr. João Vale de Almeida, from 2010 EU ambassador to the US and before that Head of Cabinet of the European Commission President 18, TABD and its allies criticise the validity of the TPD review process. Furthermore, they argue that the revised TPD provides for “arbitrary product prohibitions, stymie the very innovation that could reduce harm to consumers and would, if adopted, potentially violate international trade obligations”. Along the same lines of their opposition to the UK plain packaging proposals, the collective argues that the revised TPD will infringe intellectual property rights and “stimulate even more illicit trade with all its attending damaging consequences”.

TobaccoTactics Resources

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  1. Transatlantic Policy Network (TPA), Achievements, TPA website, Accessed November 2011
  2. abTABD, About Us, TABD website, Accessed November 2011
  3. Joseph Murphy and Les Levidow, Governing the Transatlantic Conflict over Agricultural Biotechnology: Contending Coalitions, Trade Liberalisation and Standard Setting, (Routledge Studies in International Business and the World Economy), October 17, 2006, p71. Excerpts can be accessed via Amazon
  4. Savvy Consumer, Reporting from Brussels: TACD bridging Atlantic on consumer issues, Sally Greenberg website, 27 June 2011
  5. BAT, Letter regarding discussion on ideas, 25 April 1995
  6. ASH, The smoke filled room: How big tobacco influences health policy in the UK, May 2010, p40, Accessed December 2011
  7. R J Reynolds, European public affairs action programme, 24 October 1995
  8. BAT, Note from Heather Honour, 4 September 1997. The programme, including conference attendees can be viewed here
  9. BAT, Rome communique, 7 November 1997
  10. abBAT, Forum on risk, 12 March 1998
  11. Philip Morris, Calender of events related to biosafety, 10 November 1998
  12. BAT, Letter from Doral S Cooper, 11 February 2000
  13. TABC, TABD Members, accessed July 2016
  14. TABD, Secretariat, TABD website, Accessed November 2011
  15. TABD, TABD responds to plain packaging proposals in Australia, TABD website, 6 June 2011, accessed February 2012
  16. United States Chamber of Commerce, “Trans-Atlantic business groups issue statement expressing deep concern following the announcement of plain pack consultation”, Press Release, 13 April 2012
  17. Stallman, B., Cohen, C.,Menghetti Dempsey, L., Reinsch, W.A., Brilliant, M., Bennett, T., and Robinson, P.M. Letter to João Vale de Almeida regarding the Tobacco Products Directive, 5 April 2013, accessed 25 June 2013
  18. J. Chaffin, Barroso aide named EU ambassador to US, The Financial Times, 17 February 2010, accessed 25 June 2013