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International Trade

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.

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One year after the provisional entry into force of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), most small and medium-sized enterprises are doing well out of it. At a round table at the EESC on 4 October 2018, on the opportunities CETA gives small and medium-sized enterprises – "Opportunities arising from CETA for SMEs" – participants identified a number of initiatives companies could still take advantage of to ensure that all SMEs can benefit from the CETA. Although the agreement has been successful overall, there are some concerns about its implementation in certain sectors – such as dairy – and its ratification.

An interactive exchange on initiatives for responsible business conduct in the EU

The purpose of the conference is to raise awareness, across the EU, on how multi-stakeholder actions can boost the achievement of the SDGs, to identify success factors, and to develop follow-up actions for upscaling these to EU-level.

The specific conference objectives are:

Ongoing (updated on 07/11/2018)
Plenary session: 
540 -
Jan 23, 2019 Jan 24, 2019

Composition of the study Group

Administrator in charge: Katarina Albrechtova | Assistant: Judith Landesz

Background info

All recently negotiated and implemented EU "new generation" free trade agreements (either stand-alone free trade agreements or free trade chapters within association agreements) include among others, a Trade and sustainable Development (TSD) chapter. These chapters usually foresee civil society mechanisms, called Domestic Advisory Groups (DAGs), in the EU and in the partner country or countries. Currently functioning DAGs are already in place within agreements with Korea, Colombia/Peru/Ecuador, Central America, Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine, Canada.

Information memo: The role of Domestic Advisory Groups in monitoring the implementation of Free Trade Agreements

Ongoing (updated on 09/11/2018)
Plenary session: 
540 -
Jan 23, 2019 Jan 24, 2019

Composition of the study group.

Administrator in charge: Ms. Sara Nanino | Assistant in charge: Ms. Carlotta Isabella Iapichino

Background info:

On the basis of an analysis of the main trends in world trade, the opinion will explore what developments would be desirable in the WTO's organisation and mission.

This opinion would fit in with the objective of "addressing the challenges of globalisation" and provide civil society's contribution to an appropriate reform of the WTO: proposals concerning governance, the decision-making process, the DSB, consideration of investments, trade in services, data protection and intellectual property.

Information memo: Reforming the WTO to adapt to developments in world trade (own-initiative opinion)


During the meeting, the members of the Domestic Advisory Group (DAG) of the EU composed of representatives of employers' organisations, trade unions and various interest group, will elect their Chair and Vice-Chairs. They will discuss the mandate of the EU DAG, working methods, reporting procedures and cooperation with other civil society organisations, as well as exchange views on its rules of procedure. Additionally, the members of the EU DAG will exchange views with representatives of the European Commission on matters related to the implementation of the trade and sustainable development title of the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA).


During the meeting, the Chair and the Vice-chairs of the EU DAG under the new mandate will be elected. The Group will also discuss its mandate, working methods, reporting procedures and cooperation with other civil society organisations, as well as exchange views on its rules of procedure and assess possible amendments . Moreover, the EU DAG will discuss with representatives of the EC matters related to the implementation of the EU-Korea FTA under three pillars of sustainable development.