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This article examines an example of private transnational governance in the first decades after the Second World War: the Council of European Industrial Federations (CEIF), created in 1949 by the peak-level trade associations in western Europe. Based on this case, the article takes issue with two predominant views in the current literature: a view that sees the European integration process, at least in its early stages, as driven largely by nation-states and political agendas; and another view, widespread among business and economic historians, that contacts between business associations at that time served the main purpose of re-establishing international cartels. The CEIF actually performed a wide variety of functions: it represented organized business at international events and in organizations, acted as a multilateral arena for the exchange of information and for building trust among the businesspeople of various European countries, and, from 1958 onwards, helped bridge the divide between those inside and those outside the Common Market. On occasions, for example, in the case of export incentives, it even managed to forge a consensus for policy action when national governments were unable to agree.