The External Relations Section (REX) of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) is responsible for dialogue between European civil society organisations and their homologues from the countries with which the European Union has formal relations (e.g. under the form of a Free Trade Agreement). Through this dialogue, made possible by a series of bilateral bodies, and through specialized opinions and information reports, the Committee is able to concretely contribute to EU foreign policy.
Latin America and the Caribbean
The EESC has been working with Latin American and Caribbean counterpart organisations since the 1990s. Several EESC's opinions have focused on relations with this region, at regional, sub-regional and national level. The EESC's priorities include the development of civil society organisations, economic and social development, regional integration and cooperation in the multilateral sphere.
At a regional level, the EESC organises biennial meetings between civil society organisation representatives in Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, as one of the preparatory events prior to the EU-CELAC Summit.
At sub-regional and national level, several permanent structures have been set up: In 2009, the EESC set up a civil society Round Table with the Brazilian Economic and Social Council to provide a forum for dialogue and continuous cooperation between representatives of Brazilian and European civil society. The EU-Chile Association Agreement gave the Committee a mandate to establish a Joint Consultative Committee with its Chilean civil society counterpart in order to monitor the agreement, which was finally set up in 2016. As regards the Andean Community countries, the EESC takes part in the Domestic Advisory Group monitoring the EU-Colombia/Peru/Ecuador free trade agreement. It also participates in the CARIFORUM-EU Consultative Committee that monitors the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement. Permanent relations have been established with the EESC's institutional counterparts in Mercosur (the Economic and Social Consultative Forum) and Central America (the Consultative Committee of the Central American Integration System).
The EESC’s activities in Latin America takes place in the framework of European Union (EU) policy on the region and, more specifically, through the strategic partnership between the EU, Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), negotiations on association agreements with Central America, Mexico, Chile and Mercosur, the free trade agreement with Peru and Colombia and the EU-Brazil strategic partnership.