January 2013, London
Pascal Lamy was busy this month. From Davos, the Director General of the World Trade Organisation went to Bangladesh, where he visited the busy Chittagong port and gave a speech at the Chamber of Commerce on 1 February. On both occasions, he reiterated the importance of removing barriers to trade and establishing a multilateral trade facilitation agreement, which could save up to $1 trillion for the global economy. Apparently, nowadays border crossing cost 10% of the value of trade and average customs transaction involves 20–30 different parties, 40 documents, and 200 data elements, a third of which must be repeated several times. The World Economic Forum estimates that by reducing these barriers — many of them regulatory in nature — global GDP would increase by 4.7%, by contrast to only 0.7% gain if the focus was just on removing tariffs.
Seeking the “power” of influence?
January 2013, Italy
What is power – and why do so many want it? Power as such doesn’t exist, except as electricity; in socio-political contexts, it only exists as a relationship, where one of the parties involved is in a stronger position and can rule over the other(s). So the phrase “power of influence” is in fact a tautology. Seeking to gain “power of influence” actually means seeking influence over others, which amounts to being able to dominate, either directly or through others who can.
The recent “buddying” scheme between multinational corporations and ministerial departments is a good example for the concept above. Since July 2011, when the scheme was introduced, fifty large firms (including oil, telecoms and pharmaceutical companies) have been granted privileged access to three departments – Business, Innovation and Skills; Energy and Climate Change; and Culture, Media and Sport. According to The Guardian (“More multinationals to get access to ministers”, 19 January 2013), the first 38 multinationals have so far had nearly 700 meetings with ministers between them. And the government is considering adding another thirty companies to this selected club list during 2013.