Employers believe that the business community has a crucial role to play in spreading a positive message about trade and in explaining what an ambitious trade policy ca
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International trade is governed by a complex mixture of global rules agreed under World Trade Organization and bilateral and multilateral agreements. The free trade agreements are having a growing impact on citizens' rights. Under the Lisbon Treaty, EU trade policy must be conducted within the framework of the principles and objectives of the Union’s external action, including 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 at the EESC reconcile the positions and views of business, workers, professionals, farmers, consumers and other important stakeholders contributes 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 negotiations and in the implementation of trade agreements. We have set up a Follow-up Committee on International trade to ensure that civil society has a say in the shaping of EU trade policy. We are also managing the Domestic Advisory groups set up under the trade and sustainable development chapters of the EU "new generation" trade agreements. These groups, composed of civil society representatives (from inside and outside the EESC) are responsible for identifying trade and sustainable development-related problems in the implementation of a trade agreement.
The EU has one of the world's most open investment regimes, and collectively EU Member States have the fewest restrictions in the world on foreign direct investment (FDI). The OECD expressly acknowledged this in its FDI Regulatory Restrictiveness Index which measures statutory barriers against foreign investment in over 60 countries.
The Commission's reflection paper of 10 May 2017 on Harnessing Globalisation recognised increasing concerns about foreign investors' strategic acquisitions of European companies with key technologies. These concerns called into question the capacity of the current regulatory framework to address them.
The Commission is committed to including a chapter on Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD) in trade agreements as part of the EU’s value-based trade agenda. There is overall strong support in the EU for including ambitious commitments on labour rights and environmental protection, as well as active role of civil society, in current and future Free Trade Agreements. In its paper, published on 11 July 2017, the European Commission intends to assess the following issues:
- whether the current Trade and Sustainable Development chapters are meeting expectations, and what could be done to improve them.
- whether a more assertive partnership on trade and sustainable development in bilateral Free Trade Agreements should be pursued
- whether a sanction based approach would address the shortcomings identified
- whether any other issues related to trade and sustainable development need to be addressed.
The 5th meeting of the EU-Ukraine Civil Society Platform took place on 15 November 2017 in Kyiv. During the meeting, a debate was held assessing the state of play in the implementation of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, and two reports, prepared by both sides, were discussed and adopted – on the Progress in the implementation of Euro-integration reforms in the field of Science and Technology, and on The rights of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). A Joint Declaration was adopted at the end of the meeting to be forwarded to the EU-Ukraine Association Council, the Association Committee, the Parliamentary Association Committee and other relevant bodies both in Ukraine as well as in the EU.
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. The seminar aims at examining the significance of the EU-Japan Agreement in the global context, reflecting on the role that civil society may play in the implementation of such agreement, and aims to assess possible challenges and benefits for different stakeholders (the business community, workers, farmers, consumers, etc.).
The hearing will aim to identify how trade and investment policies can contribute to the achievement of SDGs. The main questions which will be discussed during the debate will include: can trade and sustainable development be mutually reinforcing? Are there SDGs, which are particularly dependent on the existence on an open, rule-based, equitable multilateral trade system? What should be the role of private sector in achieving SDGs through trade and investment policies? Can civil society be instrumental in achieving SDGs through trade policy? How can ''Aid for trade'' be an efficient tool for achieving SDGs?
During the meeting, members of the GCI were informed by the President on the civil society meeting of EuroLat's standing parliamentary committees (22-24 May), the hearing in the Walloon Parliament concerning the current state of The EU-Colombia, Peru and the FTA of Ecuador, as well as the public with DG Trade on the current status of the Advisory Groups. They were then interviewed by the European Commission on the preparation of the 2017 Civil Society Forum and the process of Ecuador's accession to the agreement.
During the meeting, the Commission representative provided information about the annual meetings of the Board on Trade and Sustainable Development (BTSD), as well as the debate on the participation of the advisory groups and their dialogue with the BTSD. Members also discussed the future of the advisory groups under the Trade and Sustainable Development Title of the European Union's agreements and the Renewal of the European advisory group's mandates (April 2018).
The publication is a summary of the conference "Does the EU encourage private sector investment" that took place on 11 May 2017 in Valletta, Malta. The conference was jointly organised by the Employers' Group of the European Economic and Social Committee and all major Maltese employers' organisations: Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, Malta Employers' Association (MEA), Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association (MHRA) and Malta Chamber of SMEs (GRTU).