|Headquarters||Tokyo (Asia Pacific Group)|
Paris (European Group)
Washington, D.C. (North American Group)
|More than 390|
|Yasuchika Hasegawa (Asia Pacific chairman)|
Jean-Claude Trichet (European chairman)
Meghan O'Sullivan (North American chairman)
The Trilateral Commission was formed in 1973 by private citizens of Japan, North American nations (the U.S. and Canada), and Western European nations to foster substantive political and economic dialogue across the world. The idea of the Commission was developed in the early 1970s, a time of considerable discord among the United States and its allies in Western Europe, Japan, and Canada. 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, a Rockefeller advisor who was a specialist on international affairs (and later President Jimmy Carter's National Security Advisor from 1977 to 1981), left Columbia University to organize the group, along with:
- Edwin Reischauer, professor at Harvard University and United States Ambassador to Japan, 1961–1966
- George S. Franklin, executive director of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York
- Gerard C. Smith, SALT I negotiator and its first North American chairman
- Henry D. Owen, foreign policy studies director at the Brookings Institution
- Max Kohnstamm, European Policy Centre
- Robert R. Bowie, the Foreign Policy Association and director of the Harvard Center for International Affairs
- Marshall Hornblower, former partner at Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering
- Tadashi Yamamoto, Japan Center for International Exchange
- William Scranton, former governor of Pennsylvania
The organization's records are stored at the Rockefeller Archive Center in North Tarrytown, NY.
The Trilateral Commission initiated its biannual meetings in October 1973 in Tokyo, Japan. In May 1976 the first plenary meeting of all of the Commission's regional groups took place in Kyoto, Japan. Since the ninth meeting in 1978, plenary meetings have taken place annually. Besides annual plenary meetings, regional meetings have also taken place in each of the Asia Pacific Group, the European Group and the North American Group. Since its founding, the discussion group has produced an official journal, Trialogue.
Membership is divided into numbers proportionate to each of the think tank's three regional areas. North America 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, but in 2000 the Japanese group of 85 members became the Pacific Asia group, comprising 117 members: 75 Japanese, 11 South Koreans, 7 Australian and New Zealand citizens, and 15 members from the ASEAN nations (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand). The Pacific Asia group also included 9 members from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The commission now 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 politics, business, and academia. It has three chairpersons, one from each of the regions represented. The current chairs are former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Joseph S. Nye, Jr., former head of the European Central Bank Jean-Claude Trichet and Yasuchika Hasegawa, chair of Takeda Pharmaceutical Company.
- Bowie, Robert R. (Foreign Policy Association and director of the Harvard Center for International Affairs)
- Brzezinski, Zbigniew (10th United States National Security Advisor, Jimmy Carter administration)
- Carter, Jimmy (President of the United States)
- Donovan, Hedley (former editor-in-chief, Time)
- Epstein, Jeffrey (former hedge fund manager and convicted sex-trafficker)
- Gardner, Richard (Columbia University)
- Franklin, George S. (executive director of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York)
- Hornblower, Marshall (former partner at Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering)
- Huntington, Samuel P. (former director of Harvard’s Center for International Affairs, former White House Coordinator of Security Planning for the National Security Council)
- Kohnstamm, Max (European Policy Centre)
- Mondale, Walter
- Nye, Joseph S. (Jr.) (former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs)
- Owen, Henry D. (foreign policy studies director at the Brookings Institution)
- Reischauer, Edwin (professor at Harvard University and United States Ambassador to Japan, 1961–1966)
- Scranton, William (former governor of Pennsylvania)
- Trezise, Philip H. (Center for Law and Social Policy)
- Vance, Cyrus
- Warnke, Paul C. (Center for Law and Social Policy, Clifford, Warnke, Glass, McIlwain & Finney)
- Yamamoto, Tadashi (Japan Center for International Exchange)
Social critic and academic Noam Chomsky has criticized the commission as undemocratic, pointing to its publication The Crisis of Democracy, which describes the strong popular interest in politics during the 1970s as an "excess of democracy". He described it as one of the most interesting and insightful books showing the modern democratic system not to really be a democracy at all, but controlled by elites. Chomsky says that as it was an internal discussion they "let their hair down" and talked about how the public needs to be reduced to its proper state of apathy and obedience.
Essentially liberal internationalists from Europe, Japan and the United States, the liberal wing of the intellectual elite. That's where Jimmy Carter's whole government came from. [...] [The Trilateral Commission] was concerned with trying to induce what they called "more moderation in democracy"—turn people back to passivity and obedience so they don't put so many constraints on state power and so on. In particular they were worried about young people. They were concerned about the institutions responsible for the indoctrination of the young (that's their phrase), meaning schools, universities, church and so on—they're not doing their job, [the young are] not being sufficiently indoctrinated. They're too free to pursue their own initiatives and concerns and you've got to control them better.
Critics accuse the Commission of promoting a global consensus among the international ruling classes in order to manage international affairs in the interest of the financial and industrial elites under the Trilateral umbrella.
In his 1980 book With No Apologies, Republican Senator Barry Goldwater suggested the discussion group 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." Right-wing groups such as the John Birch Society and conspiracy theorists such as Alex Jones have also promulgated this idea.
Some conspiracy theorists believe the organization to be a central plotter of a world government or synarchy. As documented by journalist Jonathan Kay, Luke Rudkowski interrupted a lecture by former Trilateral Commission director Zbigniew Brzezinski in April 2007 and accused the organization and a few others of having orchestrated the 9/11 attacks to initiate a new world order.
Conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer sardonically alluded to the conspiracy theories when he was asked in 2012 who makes up the "Republican establishment", saying, "Karl Rove is the president. We meet every month on the full moon... [at] the Masonic Temple. We have the ritual: Karl brings the incense, I bring the live lamb and the long knife, and we began... with a pledge of allegiance to the Trilateral Commission."
- Crozier, Michel; Huntington, Samuel; Watanuki, Joji (1975). The Crisis of Democracy: Report on the Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral Commission. New York: New York University Press. ISBN 0-8147-1365-3.
- The Global Economic Crisis. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution. 2011. ISBN 978-0-930503-93-2.
- Nuclear Disarmament and Nonproliferation. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution. 2011. ISBN 978-0-930503-94-9.
- Bilderberg Group
- Chatham House (The Royal Institute of International Affairs)
- Council on Foreign Relations
- World Economic Forum
- U.S.-Japan Council
- Bohemian Grove
- Rockefeller family
- Samuel Huntington (author of The Crisis of Democracy)
- Shanghai Cooperation Organisation
- Valdai Discussion Club
- "David Rockefeller". Trilateral Commission. Retrieved 14 March 2013.
- "ABOUT THE TRILATERAL COMMISSION". Retrieved Jul 12, 2018.
- "FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS". The Trilateral Commission. Retrieved Jul 12, 2018.
- "The Trilateral Commission FAQ". The Trilateral Commission. 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-17.
- “The Trilateral Commission (North America) Records“. Rockefeller Archives. rockarch.org
- George S. Franklin Jr., 82, Foreign Policy Expert David Stout. New York Times. March 7, 1996. Retrieved May 12, 2016
- "Tadashi Yamamoto, pioneer of international exchange, dies at 76". Asahi Shimbun. 2012-04-16. Archived from the original on 2012-08-01. Retrieved 2012-05-08.
- "Treasures Within a Treasure: The Rockefeller Archives Center". thehudsonindependent.com. Retrieved 2019-01-04.
- "Meetings". The Trilateral Commission. Retrieved Jul 12, 2018.
- "Answer to a written question - Incompatibility between the holding of a Community decision-making office and membership of the Bilderberg Club and the Trilateral Commission - E-1846/2003". European Parliament. August 6, 2003. Retrieved 2011-11-12.
- "Trilateral Commission Membership" (PDF). October 2011. Retrieved 2011-11-12.
- “Who's Who on the Trilateral Commission”. Trilateralism: The Trilateral Commission and Elite Planning for World Management. Boston, MA: South End Press, 1980. ISBN 0896081036 ISBN 0896081044 OCLC 6958001 (pp. 90-122).
- Sutton, Antony C. and Patrick M. Wood. Trilaterals Over Washington, Vol. 1, “Appendix A: The Trilateral Commission: Membership List, as of October 15, 1978”. Scottsdale, AZ: The August Corporation, 1978. ISBN 0933482019 LCCN 78-78277. (pp. 155-165)
- Noam., Chomsky, (1999). Profit over people : neoliberalism and global order (Seven Stories Press 1st ed.). New York: Seven Stories Press. ISBN 1888363827. OCLC 39505718.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
- Chomsky's Philosophy (2017-04-18), Noam Chomsky - The Crisis of Democracy, retrieved 2018-09-03
- Kasenbacher, Michael (24 December 2012). "Work, Learning and Freedom". New Left Project. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
- Cold Warriors: The Trilateral Commission (Documentary). 1984.
- “The Commission's Purpose, Structure, and Programs: In Its Own Words”. Trilateralism: The Trilateral Commission and Elite Planning for World Management. Boston: South End Press, 1980. ISBN 0-89608-103-6, ISBN 0-89608-104-4, OCLC 6958001. pp. 83-89.
- Goldwater, Barry. With No Apologies. Co-authored with Stephen Shadegg. Berkley, 1980. ISBN 0-425-04663-X p. 299.
- Barry, Dan (June 25, 2009). "Holding Firm Against Plots by Evildoers". The New York Times.
- Kay, Jonathan. Among the Truthers: A Journey Through America's Growing Conspiracist Underground. New York: Harpers, 2011. ISBN 978-1-55468-630-8. pp. 200–201
- "Krauthammer's Take". Special Report with Bret Baier. Retrieved January 26, 2012.
- Brzezinski, Zbigniew. “America and Europe”. Foreign Affairs, Vol. 49, No. 1, October 1970. doi:10.2307/20037815 (pp. 11–30) Includes Brzezinski's proposal for the establishment of a body like the Trilateral Commission.
- Brzezinski, Zbigniew. Between Two Ages: America's Role in the Technetronic Era. New York, NY: Viking Press, 1970. OCLC 88066
- Gill, Stephen. American Hegemony and the Trilateral Commission (Cambridge Studies in International Relations). Cambridge University Press, 1991. ISBN 052142433X OCLC 246854587
- Kay, Jonathan. Among the Truthers: A Journey Through America's Growing Conspiracist Underground. New York, NY: Harper, 17 May 2011. ISBN 0062004816
- Rockefeller, David. Memoirs. New York, NY: Random House, 2002. ISBN 0679405887
- Sklar, Holly. Trilateralism: The Trilateral Commission and Elite Planning for World Management. Boston, MA: South End Press, 1980. ISBN 0896081036
- Sutton, Antony C. Trilaterals Over America. Boring, OR: CPA Book Publishers, 1995. ISBN 978-0944379325 OCLC 39366977. 162 pages.
- Wood, Patrick M. Technocracy Rising: The Trojan Horse Of Global Transformation. Coherent Publishing, 2014. ISBN 978-0986373909
- Official website
- Membership as of August 2011
- Membership as of April 2015
- Is the Trilateral Commission the secret organization that runs the world? (Fact check against conspiracy theories from The Straight Dope, 1987)