Studies of lobbying try to determine the influence and power of non-governmental actors on public policy. Although influence is very difficult to measure empirically, many continue to push for better research design to solve the problem. Through case studies of business-government relations in the United States and the European Union, this article argues that the difficulties with power and influence concern not only their operationalisation, but they also reflect conceptual confusions. Trying to determine the ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ of a policy issue can be misleading, since power also structures apparently harmonious exchange relationships. The perceived success of business lobbying in the cases studied depended on the governments' receptiveness to their demands, which in turn depended on strategic advantages they saw for themselves in international negotiations. Even when business appears to lead the dance, it is more promising to look at resource distribution and the interdependence of both sides, instead of assuming the domination of business power over policy outcomes.