The businessman and barrister, Peter Sutherland, is the Chairman of Goldman Sachs International, the former Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, and a longtime Bilderberg attendee.
He sits on the board of directors of Koç Holding, the largest industrial conglomerate in Turkey, whose Chairman is Mustafa Koç, a member of the Bilderberg Steering Committee.
Sutherland’s career spans the public and corporate worlds: he is, for example, the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary- General (SRSG) for International Migration, and is on the Supervisory Board of Allianz SE, the German multinational financial services company. Until 2009, Sutherland was Chairman of BP and the vice chairman of the European Round Table of Industrialists.
Sutherland is one of the “high priests of globalisation” to quote former Observer editor and one-time conference attendee, Will Hutton. The co-founders of Spinwatch have described Sutherland as “truly one of the global elite” and “one of the most influential global political figures in the last 30 years.” They added that: “No public figure has ever elected Peter Sutherland, yet he has had a far greater political impact in the past two decades than almost all of the democratically elected leaders in the world.”
Throughout his career Sutherland has served numerous high-powered and influential positions in the corporate and political world: he has been a Foundation Board Member of the World Economic Forum, on the Advisory Board of the Council on Foreign Relations, Chairman of the Trilateral Commission in Europe, and a member of the Bilderberg Steering Committee.
A 2010 Irish Times profile described Sutherland as “Ireland’s ‘Davos Man’ – a master networker with high-profile corporate and public positions and a bulging contacts book to boot.” A Financial Times piece from 2009 described him as a man “at the centre of the establishment in all its forms” and someone with “a tough reputation as a business fixer and enforcer.”
Another Financial Times piece described Sutherland as “a crusader for trade liberalism” who is “on first-name terms with ministers and leaders of state around the world.” It also added that he “has considerable clout in the sphere where governments, global corporations and international organisations meet and overlap” and that “former colleagues say he was invaluable in opening doors in European governments and in Brussels.”
After serving as Ireland’s Attorney General from 1981-84, Sutherland became a European Commissioner responsible for Competition Policy under President Jacques Delors. Described as a man who “brought charm, pugnacity and a faith in market forces to the post” he quickly set about breaking down trade barriers. Despite facing opposition, Sutherland “liberalised the airline and telecommunications industries, curbed state subsidies and put in place a framework for EU merger policy that exists today.”
According to Charles Grant: “Sutherland asked Delors for the competition job because of its economic importance, and because a close reading of the Treaty of Rome had shown him that, in theory, the commission had more power in this field than any other. Before Sutherland, the commission had seldom used the considerable powers which lay in the treaty.”
Sutherland was tipped to succeed Delors but a change in government in Ireland prevented him from being nominated. Instead he became Chairman of Allied Irish Bank in 1989 and went on to join the board of BP and Goldman Sachs. After a few years Sutherland went back through the revolving door to become Director-General of GATT in 1993, playing a key role in concluding the Uruguay round.
At the time it was the largest trade deal in history and helped further open markets for corporate interests. It also created the World Trade Organisation (WTO) with Sutherland serving as the founding Director-General until April 1995. Since his departure he has continued to advise the WTO and his credited with helped to transform the office into one that dealt not only with ministers but directly with heads of state.
The Financial Times describes his time at GATT/WTO:
“During less than two years in charge he charmed, cajoled and bullied governments into signing an agreement that brought down trade barriers and provided the legislative basis for globalisation… [Sutherland] made direct contact with ministers and heads of government and backed up his private pleadings with public warnings that failure to ratify a deal would plunge the world into a spiral of protectionism… During the final negotiations, his stature was such that he was able to force through dozens of clauses with a bang of his gavel. ‘Part of the strategy was to frighten everyone into doing a deal,’ says one person involved in the negotiations.”
After leaving the WTO he joined the board at BP, going on to become Chairman in 1997. In 1995 he also became Chairman of Goldman Sachs International after first joining as an advisor in 1990. His two and a half decades with the “Vampire Squid” earned a reputation as “one of the City of London’s most prominent figures.” He is due to step down at the end of June 2015 but “will continue to provide strategic advice to the firm on global business development opportunities as an international adviser.”
On his time at BP, said to the Financial Times in 2009:
“BP is a global company. I have been involved in the EU and later in the WTO, as director, in the integration of countries through economic means, which goes back to the whole issue of nationalism and how to handle it. And BP is a practising element of the globalising process, which is what this is all about. Of course there are people who would attack multinationals. And there are good multinationals and bad ones. But overall I’ve never come across in my experience at BP what I would consider to be anything other than a totally moral approach to decision-making.”
Another influential role played by Sutherland was as a member of the European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT) from 1997, becoming its Vice-President from 2006 to 2009. ERT was central in the push towards European integration and an internal market from the 1980s after decades of stalling. On this role he said that “one can argue that the whole completion of the internal market project was initiated not by governments but by the Round Table, and by members of it, Wisse Dekker [CEO of Philips] in particular.” He added that the ERT “played a fairly consistent role subsequently in dialoguing with the Commission on practical steps to implement market liberalization.” Former Bilderberg Chairman Etienne Davignon played a key role alongside Dekker in the creation of the ERT.
Other positions served by Sutherland include the Advisory Board of Eli Lilly, Board of Directors at Royal Bank of Scotland, ABB, Investor AB, Ericsson, Allianz, Koc Holding. and BW Group, Honorary Chairman of the Trilateral Commission, Chairman of the London School of Economics Council, President of the Federal Trust, Honorary President of European Policy Centre (Bilderberger John Kerr is Vice-President), board member of the Centre for European Reform, Director of the U.S. based the European Institute (alongside Jacques Delors and former Bilderberg Chairman Etienne Davignon), Advisory Council of Business for New Europe, Chairman of the Board of Governors at the European Institute of Public Administration, Honorary President of the European Movement Ireland, and a Co-Chairman of the High Level Group (reported on the Doha Round in 2011).