International Trade

Related Theme: External Relations - Enlargement/EUNeighbours

International trade is governed by a complex mixture of global rules agreed under the World Trade Organization and bilateral and multilateral agreements. The free trade agreements are having a growing impact on citizens' rights. Under the Lisbon Treaty, the EU trade policy must be conducted within the framework of principles and objectives of the Union’s external action, including the promotion of the rule of law, human rights and sustainable development.

We believe that this trend should be a guiding principle in EU trade negotiations and in trade relations. The fact that we reconcile the positions and views of business, workers, professionals, farmers, consumers and other important stakeholders has real added value. We are in a position to efficiently relay the opinions of civil society and interest groups to international policy-makers both during the negotiations and in the implementation of trade agreements.


Opinions on International Trade

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  • 5 Jul 2017
    Building a European Data Economy Adopted References: TEN/630 EESC-2017 Referral - Rapporteur: van Iersel (Employers - GR I / Netherlands) Plenary Session: 527 - 5 Jul 2017 - 6 Jul 2017
  • 5 Jul 2017
    The external dimension of social economy Adopted References: REX/472 EESC-2017 Own-initiative Rapporteur: Miguel Ángel Cabra de Luna (Various interests - GR III / Spain) Plenary Session: 527 - 5 Jul 2017 - 6 Jul 2017

    In its opinion the EESC underlines that the social economy is a key player and helps to achieve the objectives of all European policies with an external dimension: external and security policy, trade policy, neighbourhood policy, climate change policy, development cooperation and sustainable development policy. However, the lack of an appropriate regulatory environment, at both European and national level, prevents this sector from developing its full potential and maximising its impact. The Commission and the Member States must promote the participation, consultation and coordination of their external entrepreneurial and development cooperation activities with the bodies representing the social economy at European and national level, as well as with those of partner countries, and with international social economy organisations with a North-South and South-South dimension. The participation of the social economy in the JCCs and DAGs can help strengthen the knowledge, ties and cooperation of the social economy between different regions, as is already the case, for example, between the EU social economy and its relevant counterparts in Latin America and the southern shores of the Mediterranean.

    The EESC reiterates its call for the creation of a European Sustainable Development Civil Society Forum to promote and monitor the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, with the key players being the Council, Commission, Parliament, the representative bodies of the European social economy and the rest of civil society.

  • 29 Mar 2017
    REX/483 - Trade Defence Instruments – methodology Adopted References: REX/483 EESC-2017 Referral Rapporteur: Christian Bäumler (Workers - GR II / Germany) Co-rapporteur: Andrés Barceló Delgado (Employers - GR I / Spain) Plenary Session: 524 - 29 Mar 2017 - 30 Mar 2017

    The EESC is committed to open and fair trade and recognises its value as a driver of growth and jobs. Therefore, the EESC calls for a level playing field between European and third country exporting producers, and for effective trade defence instruments. The EESC supports the Commission's proposal that the dumping margin should be calculated not using the standard methodology, but on the basis of benchmarks that take account of significantly distorted production and sale costs. The EESC points out that in its 2016 opinion on preserving sustainable jobs and growth in the steel industry, it already called for the standard methodology not to be used in anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigations into Chinese imports as long as the country failed to meet the EU's five criteria for market economy status. The EESC welcomes the Commission's intention of using specific criteria to determine whether there are significant distortions in the market situation. The Committee notes that the respect of ILO standards and of Multilateral Environment Agreements should also be considered. In addition, the EESC stresses that the anti-dumping complaints procedure must also be accessible to small and medium-sized enterprises. The Committee also notes that the efficiency of trade defence instrument (TDI) procedures is also linked to the 2013 proposal to modernise TDI, including the lesser duty rule. The EESC insists that it is crucially important for the TDI modernisation package to also be finalised and adopted in the coming months in order to produce a robust and effective trade defence system and to secure jobs and growth in the EU.

  • 23 Feb 2017
    Agriculture in trade negotiations Adopted References: NAT/679 Own-initiative Rapporteur: Peel (Employers - GR I / United Kingdom)
  • 23 Feb 2017
    The core role of trade and investment in meeting and implementing the SDGs Ongoing References: REX/486 Own-initiative Rapporteur: Jonathan Peel (Employers - GR I / United Kingdom) Co-rapporteur: Christophe Quarez (Workers - GR II / France)

    The 2030 UN Agenda, or the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, will be one of the top global priorities over the next 15 years, yet it received very little mention in the Commission Communication "Trade for all". Trade is specifically mentioned with regard to nine SDGs (but only once in the MDGs). UNCTAD estimate that, to meet the 17 goals and the 169 targets, at least an extra US$2.5 trillion a year will need to be found - effectively from the private sector. This opinion would seek to look into this further and aim to evaluate how much of that will need to come through trade and investment.

    Also, in the current climate, in which free trade agreement negotiations are being called into question and civil society representatives have lost confidence in these agreements, it is time to reflect upon the extent to which social and environmental aspects are being incorporated into free trade agreements and how this might change in the future. A critical evaluation is needed not only of the progress that has already been made, but particularly of the limitations of the chapters on sustainable development that are in the existing agreements. Likewise, proposals aimed at incorporating genuine social and environmental clauses as an integral and binding part of the agreement should be formulated with the aim of mobilising support for a new generation of free trade agreements among large swathes of civil society. Progressive trade agreements should ensure support for the implementation of SDGs.

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