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Trilateral Commission

Trilateral Commission

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The Trilateral Commission is a non-governmental, non-partisan discussion group founded by David Rockefeller
David Rockefeller
David Rockefeller, Sr. is the current patriarch of the Rockefeller family. He is the youngest and only surviving child of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, and the only surviving grandchild of oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil. His five siblings were...

 in July 1973 to foster closer cooperation among the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 and Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

.

History


Sensing a profound discord between the nations of North America, Europe and Japan, the Trilateral Commission was founded to foster substantive political and economic dialogue across the world. To quote its founding declaration:
  • "Growing interdependence is a fact of life of the contemporary world. It transcends and influences national systems...While it is important to develop greater cooperation among all the countries of the world, Japan, Western Europe, and North America, in view of their great weight in the world economy and their massive relations with one another, bear a special responsibility for developing effective cooperation, both in their own interests and in those of the rest of the world."
  • "To be effective in meeting common problems, Japan, Western Europe, and North America will have to consult and cooperate more closely, on the basis of equality, to develop and carry out coordinated policies on matters affecting their common interests...refrain from unilateral actions incompatible with their interdependence and from actions detrimental to other regions... [and] take advantage of existing international and regional organizations and further enhance their role."
  • "The Commission hopes to play a creative role as a channel of free exchange of opinions with other countries and regions. Further progress of the developing countries and greater improvement of East-West relations will be a major concern."


Zbigniew Brzezinski
Zbigniew Brzezinski
Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzezinski is a Polish American political scientist, geostrategist, and statesman who served as United States National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981....

, a professor at Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

 and a Rockefeller advisor who was a specialist on international affairs, left his post to organize the group along with:
  • Henry D. Owen
    Henry D. Owen
    Henry David Owen was a diplomat, Brookings Institution Director and United States Ambassador at Large for Economic Summit Affairs from 1977 to 1981, on the National Security Council. -Life:...

     (a Foreign Policy Studies Director with the Brookings Institution)
  • George S. Franklin
  • Robert R. Bowie
    Robert R. Bowie
    Robert R. Bowie is an American diplomat and scholar who served as CIA Deputy Director from 1977-1979.Robert Bowie graduated from Princeton University in 1931 and received a law degree from Harvard University in 1934 and turned down offers to work as a corporate lawyer with New York's major law...

     (of the Foreign Policy Association and Director of the Harvard Center for International Affairs)
  • Gerard C. Smith
    Gerard C. Smith
    Gerard Coad Smith was the chief U.S. delegate to the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks in 1969 and the first U.S. Chairman of the Trilateral Commission. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom on January 16, 1981 by President Jimmy Carter.-Biography:Gerard Smith was born in New York City...

     (Salt I negotiator, Rockefeller in-law, and its first North American Chairman)
  • Marshall Hornblower (former partner at Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering)
  • William Scranton
    William Scranton
    William Warren Scranton is a former U.S. Republican Party politician. Scranton served as the 38th Governor of Pennsylvania from 1963 to 1967. From 1976 to 1977, he served as United States Ambassador to the United Nations.-Early life:...

     (former Governor of Pennsylvania)
  • Edwin Reischauer (a professor at Harvard)
  • Max Kohnstamm
    Max Kohnstamm
    Max Kohnstamm was a Dutch historian and diplomat.Max Kohnstamm is the son of Philip Kohnstamm, a physicist, philosopher and pedagogue of Jewish-German origin...

     (European Policy Centre)

Other founding members included Alan Greenspan
Alan Greenspan
Alan Greenspan is an American economist who served as Chairman of the Federal Reserve of the United States from 1987 to 2006. He currently works as a private advisor and provides consulting for firms through his company, Greenspan Associates LLC...

 and Paul Volcker
Paul Volcker
Paul Adolph Volcker, Jr. is an American economist. He was the Chairman of the Federal Reserve under United States Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan from August 1979 to August 1987. He is widely credited with ending the high levels of inflation seen in the United States in the 1970s and...

, both later heads of the Federal Reserve system.

The Trilateral Commission initiated its biannual meetings schedule in October 1973 in Tokyo
Tokyo
, ; officially , is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan. Tokyo is the capital of Japan, the center of the Greater Tokyo Area, and the largest metropolitan area of Japan. It is the seat of the Japanese government and the Imperial Palace, and the home of the Japanese Imperial Family...

. In May 1976, the first plenary meeting of all of the Commission's regional groups took place in Kyoto
Kyoto
is a city in the central part of the island of Honshū, Japan. It has a population close to 1.5 million. Formerly the imperial capital of Japan, it is now the capital of Kyoto Prefecture, as well as a major part of the Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto metropolitan area.-History:...

. It was through these early meetings that the group affected its most profound influence, the integration of Japan into the global political conversation. Before these exchanges, the country was much more isolated on the international stage. Since its founding, the discussion group has produced an official journal called Trialogue.

Membership


Membership is divided into numbers proportionate to each of the think tank's three regional areas. The North American continent is represented by 120 members (20 Canadian, 13 Mexican and 87 U.S. citizens). The European group has reached its limit of 170 members from almost every country on the continent; the ceilings for individual countries are 20 for Germany, 18 for France, Italy and the United Kingdom, 12 for Spain and 1–6 for the rest. At first, Asia and Oceania were represented only by Japan. However, in 2000 the Japanese group of 85 members expanded itself, becoming the Pacific Asia group, composed of 117 members: 75 Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

ese, 11 South Korea
South Korea
The Republic of Korea , , is a sovereign state in East Asia, located on the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula. It is neighbored by the People's Republic of China to the west, Japan to the east, North Korea to the north, and the East China Sea and Republic of China to the south...

ns, 7 Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

n and New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 citizens, and 15 members from the ASEAN nations (Indonesia
Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

, Malaysia, Philippines
Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

, Singapore
Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

 and Thailand
Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

). The Pacific Asia group also included 9 members from China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

 and Taiwan
Taiwan
Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

. Currently, the Trilateral Commission claims "more than 100" Pacific Asian members.

While Trilateral Commission bylaws exclude persons holding public office from membership, the think tank draws its participants from political, business, and academic worlds. The group is chaired by three individuals, one from each of the regions represented. The current chairmen are former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Joseph S. Nye, Jr., President of Bocconi University
Bocconi University
Bocconi University is a private university located in central Milan, beside Parco Ravizza. Bocconi provides undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate education, in addition to a range of double degree programs, in the fields of economics, management, finance and law. According to many university...

, Milan, Mario Monti
Mario Monti
Mario Monti is an Italian economist and academic who is Prime Minister of Italy, as well as Minister of Economy and Finance, since November 2011. Monti served as a European Commissioner from 1995 to 2004, with responsibility for the Internal Market, Services, Customs and Taxation from 1995 to 1999...

, and Chief Corporate Adviser, Fuji Xerox Company, Ltd.
Fuji Xerox
is a joint venture partnership between the Japanese photographic firm Fuji Photo Film Co. and the American document management company Xerox to develop, produce and sell xerographic and document-related products and services in the Asia-Pacific region...

 Yotaro Kobayashi
Yotaro Kobayashi
Yotaro Kobayashi, born April 1933 in England, is chairman of the Fuji Xerox company of Tokyo, Japan. He is also Pacific Asia chairman of the Trilateral Commission....

.

Criticisms


Not unlike reactions to the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 or other organizations created to foster international cooperation, a number of prominent thinkers and politicians have criticized the Trilateral Commission as encroaching on national sovereignty. On the right, in his book With No Apologies, former conservative Republican Senator Barry Goldwater
Barry Goldwater
Barry Morris Goldwater was a five-term United States Senator from Arizona and the Republican Party's nominee for President in the 1964 election. An articulate and charismatic figure during the first half of the 1960s, he was known as "Mr...

 lambasted the discussion group by suggesting it was "a skillful, coordinated effort to seize control and consolidate the four centers of power: political, monetary, intellectual, and ecclesiastical...[in] the creation of a worldwide economic power superior to the political governments of the nation-states involved." On the left, linguist Noam Chomsky
Noam Chomsky
Avram Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, and activist. He is an Institute Professor and Professor in the Department of Linguistics & Philosophy at MIT, where he has worked for over 50 years. Chomsky has been described as the "father of modern linguistics" and...

 criticized a report issued by the Commission called The Crisis of Democracy
The Crisis of Democracy
The Crisis of Democracy: On the Governability of Democracies was initially a 1975 report written by Michel Crozier, Samuel P. Huntington, and Joji Watanuki for the Trilateral Commission and later published as a book....

for suggesting that there was an "excess of democracy" in the 1960s and defending "the ideology of the liberal wing of the state capitalist ruling elite". Chomsky also argues that the group had an undue influence in the administration of Jimmy Carter.

Conspiracy theories


While the Trilateral Commission is only one of many similar think tanks on the right and left, many notable conspiracy theorists believe the organization to be a central plotter of a world government
World government
World government is the notion of a single common political authority for all of humanity. Its modern conception is rooted in European history, particularly in the philosophy of ancient Greece, in the political formation of the Roman Empire, and in the subsequent struggle between secular authority,...

 or synarchy. As documented by journalist Jonathan Kay
Jonathan Kay
Jonathan Hillel Kay is Comment Pages Editor for the Toronto-based Canadian daily newspaper National Post, a columnist for the Post op-ed page, a blogger for the Post web site, a book author and editor, and a public speaker. He is also a regular contributor to Commentary Magazine and the New York...

, 9/11 conspiracy theorist
9/11 conspiracy theories
9/11 conspiracy theories are theories that disagree with the widely accepted account that the September 11 attacks were perpetrated solely by al-Qaeda. These theories arose because of what proponents of the conspiracy theories believe to be inconsistencies in the official conclusions or some...

 Luke Rudkowski gained notoriety in April 2007 by interrupting a lecture by former Trilateral Commission director Zbigniew Brzezinski
Zbigniew Brzezinski
Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzezinski is a Polish American political scientist, geostrategist, and statesman who served as United States National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981....

 and accusing the organization and a few others of having orchestrated the attacks of September 11th to initiate a new world order. Conservative and right-wing groups such as the John Birch Society
John Birch Society
The John Birch Society is an American political advocacy group that supports anti-communism, limited government, a Constitutional Republic and personal freedom. It has been described as radical right-wing....

 and conspiracy theorists such as American paleoconservative  Alex Jones also regularly tout this idea.

Further reading

(Includes Brzezinski's proposal for the establishment of a body like the Trilateral Commission.)

External links