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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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Hearing in the framework of the EESC opinion

As the world’s largest exporter and importer of foreign direct investment, it is of paramount importance for the EU to ensure that the resolution of investment disputes operates effectively on an international level. Many countries are currently engaged in internal reflections regarding their policies on investment protection and investment dispute settlement. The EESC aims therefore to make a timely contribution to this ongoing and highly interesting debate.

At the request of the European Commission, the EESC is currently drafting an own-initiative opinion on a possible future multilateral court for the settlement of investment disputes. The European Commission proposes for this court to become a permanent body to decide investment disputes, under the auspices of the United Nations Commission on International Trade law (UNCITRAL).

Hearing in the framework of the opinion REX/498

With a view to gather expert input during the preparatory process for this opinion from a wide range of stakeholders - civil society organisations, think tanks, and EU institutions included - a hearing is organised at the EESC premises on the legislative proposal of the European Commission on the establishment of a framework for screening of foreign direct investments into the European Union. The proposal aims to enable the EU Member States and the Commission to screen foreign direct investment on the grounds of security or public order.

06/11/2017 07/11/2017

The Consultative Committee (CC) is one of the 5 institutions foreseen in the EU-CARIFORUM Economic Partnership Agreement. The CC is composed of 40 (25 from the CARIFORM side and 15 from  the EU side)  standing representatives of organisations of the civil society  representing employers' organisations, trade unions, other economic, social and non-governmental organisations, including development and environmental organisations; and the academic community.

Published in: 

This publication provides a summary of the discussion entitled "Trading up for a stronger EU27. Free trade of the future – the social partners' perspective" which was held in Sopot (Poland) on 28 September 2017. The conference was organised by the Employers' Group of the European Economic and Social Committee in the framework of the European Forum for New Ideas.


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.

Plenary session: 
532 -
Feb 14, 2018 Feb 15, 2018

The EESC has played an important role in raising awareness of EU trade policy among civil society both in the EU and in third countries. The EESC encourages the Commission to strengthen its dialogue with civil society to develop the functioning of TSD chapters in current and future trade agreements. However, the EESC urges the Commission to be more ambitious in its approach, in particular with respect to strengthening effective enforceability of the commitments in TSD chapters, which is of crucial importance to the EESC. TSD chapters must be given equal weight to those covering commercial, technical or tariff issues.

EESC opinion: Trade and sustainable development chapters in EU Free Trade agreements


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.


During the meeting, the EU DAG will discuss with a representative of the European Commission the preparation for the meetings with Korea under the trade and sustainable development chapter, as well as about the current business environment in Korea and presentation of the white paper of the European Chamber of Commerce in Korea. Preparations of the 6th meeting of the EU-Korea Civil Society Forum in Seoul will be also discussed.