In the light of the agreement in principle reached in July 2017 between the EU and Japan on an Economic Partnership Agreement, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC)'s Follow-up Committees on International Trade and Japan are taking the opportunity to organise a half-day joint seminar.
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In Asia, the EESC maintains relations with civil society organisations in China, Japan and South-Korea. An official Civil Society Round Table with China is in place: it was set up in 2007 following the 9th EU-China Summit and convenes at least once a year. In recent years, the Committee has invested in developing closer relations with organised civil society in Japan, in view of the EU-Japan Free Trade Agreement which assigns a monitoring and advisory role to civil society.
The EU- Republic of Korea Free Trade Agreement, which entered into force in 2011, was the first of the so-called new generation of EU trade agreements. These agreements are characterised by the inclusion of trade and sustainable development chapters, and give the EESC – together with civil society organisations in Korea – a formal role in monitoring its implementation and advising the respective political authorities in the areas of environmental, social and labour standards and other matters which are of direct relevance to civil society. Three meetings of the EU Domestic Advisory Group are held in each year; a joint meeting takes place once a year.
Furthermore, the EESC engages with civil society in other Asian countries and in relevant international events on an ad hoc basis. One example is the bi-annual Europe-Asia People's Forum, the interregional civil society platform, which is part of the Asia-Europe Meeting.
The 15th EU-China Civil Society Round Table will take place in Beijing from 28 to 30 June 2017. To mark this anniversary edition of the Round Table – it has been 10 years since it was first set up – an overarching theme, “Partnership for Growth, Civilization of mutual benefit”, was chosen. Thematic session will examine key aspects of this partnership.
The 2030 Agenda, the new global framework for sustainable development agreed by the UN in 2015, needs to be reflected in EU's development policy, the major orientations of which are set out in the 2005 European Consensus on Development ("the Consensus").
The EESC Employers' Group is organising a seminar on "Strengthening European Growth and Competitiveness: Proactive Trade Agenda – NOW!" taking place on 26 October in Helsinki and jointly organized with the Confederation of Finnish Industries and the International Chamber of Commerce, ICC Finland.
During the meeting, the EU DAG will discuss with a representative of the European Parliament the progress in work on its report on implementation of the EU-Korea FTA. The Group may also inquire about the outcomes of the EP's mission to the Republic of Korea, which took place in May 2016. The European Commission will update participants on the state of play and the next steps in the ex-post evaluation of the agreement as well as implementation of the EU-Korea joint project related to the ILO Convention No. 111.
The 14th EU-China Civil Society Round Table took place in Brussels on 18 and 19 May 2016. Topics set up for discussion during this meeting of the Round Table were Innovation and economic development in rural areas, and Infrastucture and investment, in the framework of the One Belt One Road initiative and the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). The aim of the discussions was to find common ground and exchange ideas and best practices.
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) warns against granting China market economy status (MES) and calls on the European institutions to promote fair international competition and actively defend European jobs and European values with efficient trade defence instruments (TDIs). In its opinion, adopted at its 514th plenary session on 14th July, the EESC points to the disastrous impact a possible granting of MES to China would have on Europe's industry and consequently on Europe's labour market.
As the negotiations of the EU-Japan Free Trade Agreement are reaching a final stage, Members of the EESC Japan Follow-up Committee are preparing a mission to exchange views with Japanese stakeholders, about a possible joint civil society mechanism monitoring the implementation and the impact of the FTA.
Hearing on EU-Central Asia Strategy
On 3 December, a Hearing on EU-Central Asia relations was organised at the EESC premises in Brussels. The incoming Latvian presidency has requested an exploratory opinion from the EESC, which will serve as input for the Council discussions on the biennial review of the EU-central Asia Strategy for Partnership scheduled for early 2015.
About 30 well-informed participants contributed to a lively and informative debate, around two sessions: