The survey, published on 17 July, sounded the opinion of some 700 policy leaders, including EU and US officials, Parliamentary and Congressional staff, as well as media and private-sector executives on both sides of the Atlantic.
Relations between the two sides have come under strain by allegations that the US had monitored phone calls and e-mails of EU institutions and some of its member states, including Germany, the bloc's economic powerhouse. The eavesdropping scandal deepened the EU-US divide on data privacy and triggered a special inquiry by the European Parliament on the issue.
But despite those skirmishes, an overwhelming 74% of respondents to the survey said they support the passage of an EU-US trade agreement, called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
And an equally high number (77%) expressed their belief that a transatlantic trade deal will lead to more collaboration between trade associations representing business interests in Washington and Brussels.
The survey was conducted by APCO Insight, in collaboration with EurActiv.com in Brussels and the National Journal in Washington.
Building direct relationships key for trade associations
The survey was also the first of its kind to identify the characteristics that define the effectiveness of trade associations in achieving the public policy priorities of their members.
The survey gathered viewpoints about 55 trade associations and ranked them in an index, combining 15 characteristics that explain what policy leaders consider when evaluating an association’s public policy effectiveness.
In Brussels, EuropaBio, the trade group representing Europe’s bio-based industries – including GMO producers such as Syngenta and Monsanto – was ranked most effective in representing the interests of its members, despite widespread public rejection of the technology across Europe.
GSMA, the trade group representing the interests of mobile phone operators worldwide, scored equally high in the ranking, followed by the European Committee of Sugar Manufacturers (CEFS), the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) and the European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC).
“The Brussels model shows that having a strong lobbying presence and building direct relationships with policymakers is the most important characteristic in determining association effectiveness,” the survey said.
“Other key characteristics of an effective Brussels association are having active members who are willing to mobilise on the association’s behalf, working effectively across the political spectrum, and working effectively across the Commission, Council and Parliament“, the study said.
Some 75% of respondents agreed that trade associations will be important in advocating for an EU-US trade deal. And a whopping 82% said they will be important in either passing or defeating the TTIP, reflecting a shared perception that trade associations can be effective lobbyists when they manage to bring together the sometimes diverging interests of their corporate members.
Looking at industry sectors, the Brussels survey ranked the retail sector and the food industry as the most effective in their lobbying, closely followed by transportation and travel.