What is Trilateral Commission

The Trilateral Commission is a non-governmental policy-oriented discussion group of about 325 distinguished citizens from North America, the European Union, and Japan. It seeks to foster mutual issues for which these principal democratic industrialized regions share leadership responsibilities.

BREAKING DOWN Trilateral Commission

The Trilateral Commission is a group consisting of world leaders from government, business and elsewhere, formed for the purpose of creating a wider international community that fosters cooperation. This commission was founded by David Rockefeller in 1973 as a partnership between private citizens in North America, Europe and Japan. It has now expanded to include people from countries outside of the original three locations.

Some of the notable members include former U.S. Presidents and diplomats before they entered their public positions. This commission has garnered much controversy over its existence.

The Trilateral Commission is led by three regional chairs for Europe, North America and the Asia-Pacific regions. The regional chairs have several deputies and an executive committee. The entire membership meets annually in rotating locations to consider their strategies and organizational platform. Regional and national meetings are held throughout the year. Regional headquarters are in Washington, D.C., Paris and Tokyo.

The Trilateral Commission wields its power economically and politically. It is sometimes considered a “rich men’s club” with few women members. The Trilateral Commission espouses support for private enterprise, economic freedom and stronger collective management of global problems. Its members include influential current politicians, banking and business executives, media, civic, and intellectual leaders and several union chiefs.

The Trilateral Commission’s agendas sync with those of the G7 summits between the leaders of the world’s largest economies. Members have held key positions in U.S. administrations and in the governments of other member countries. In the late 1970s, for example, many Trilateral Commission members held senior positions in the cabinet of U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

Trilateral Commission Membership

In 2001, the Trilateral Commission began to incorporate economically smaller but emerging countries within its regional structure. For example, Mexico was accorded a handful of members, as were Asia-Pacific countries such as Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand. Members from China and India were first admitted in 2011.

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 Japanese, 11 South Koreans, 7 Australian and New Zealand citizens, and 15 members from the ASEAN nations (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singaporeand Thailand). The Pacific Asia group also included 9 members from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. As of 2011, the Trilateral Commission claims "more than 100" Pacific Asian members.