The 8th meeting of the EU Advisory Group for the EU-Central America Association Agreement will take place on February 1st in Brussels.
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).
During the meeting, the EU Domestic Advisory Group (EU DAG) and civil society representatives from Colombia and Peru will discuss implementation of the Trade and Sustainable Development Title of the Trade Agreement, with a particular focus on respect for international labour and environmental standards. They will also discuss economic, social, environmental and human rights impacts resulting from the implementation of the Agreement. The participants will reflect moreover on how the civil society from the EU, Colombia and Peru can cooperate to promote sustainable development in the context of trade relations and prepare for the next joint meeting. The participants may adopt a joint declaration summarising outcomes of their discussion and present it to the Parties during the open session planned for 8 December.
During the meeting, the representatives of the European External Action Service (EEAS) will present information about the EU relations and cooperation with Colombia and Peru. The EU DAG Chair will inform the Group about the outcomes of the civil society meeting organized in Bogota on 6 October 2016 with a view of establishing the Colombian DAG. Moreover, the Commission representative will provide information about the Ecuador's accession to the Agreement, as well as about preparations for the next meeting with Colombia and Peru under the Trade and Sustainable Development Title planned for 7-8 December in Brussels. The Group will hold then an internal debate to choose topics for the meeting with Colombia and Peru and to organize cooperation with civil society in both countries
On the 4th and 5th of October 2016 the first meeting of the EU-Chile Joint Consultative Committee took place in Santiago, Chile. The JCC is contemplated in Article 10 of the EU-Chile Association Agreement and it is the last provision that has yet to be executed. An EESC delegation composed of nine members and presided by Ms. Pavic-Rogošic will be meeting the recently constituted Chilean Council. The rules governing the JCC will be agreed upon during this time and a work program encompassing the priorities of civil society in the relations between the EU and Chile will be defined. The JCC will be constituted at a key time in the relations between both political authorities in the context of the upcoming Modernization of the Association Agreement.
During the meeting, the Commission representative will provide information about the ex-post evaluation of the EU-Korea FTA, as an example of an evaluation of a trade agreement being in force. A similar evaluation of the implementation of the trade pillar of the EU-Central America Association Agreement is scheduled for 2018 and the EU Advisory Group would like to prepare for its future contribution to that process. The Commission will also discuss with the Group the follow-up to the meetings with Central America held in Honduras in June 2016 and the preparation for next year's meetings, which will take place in Brussels. The Group may also have an opportunity to discuss with the ILO representatives implementation of the project related to respect for labour standards, funded by the EU and delivered by the ILO in El Salvador and Guatemala.
3rd EU-Central America joint meeting of civil society Advisory Groups and Civil Society Dialogue Forum
This year's joint meetings between the EU and Central America under the Trade and Sustainable Development Title of the Association Agreement commenced with a workshop on market access. The participants discussed opportunities provided by the Agreement and challenges faced by the economic operators, in particular SMEs. Separate sessions focused on fair trade and value chains as ways facilitating market access for SMEs and small producers. On 16 June, the representatives of the EU and Central American Advisory Groups exchanged experience in their up-to-date operation and discussed proposals for strengthening capacity of the civil society monitoring mechanism, the role of the Parties in this context and future cooperation. This was followed by Civil Society Dialogue Forum where civil society representatives from the EU and Central America asked questions and expressed positions with regard to implementation of the Association Agreement and its impacts.
During the meeting, the Commission representative provided information about the implementation of the project on labour standards delivered in cooperation with the ILO in El Salvador and Guatemala. The Commission also informed about preparations for meetings with Central America planned for 15-17 June in Honduras, in particular meeting of the intergovernmental Board on Trade and Sustainable Development. The EU Advisory Group then discussed preparations for the civil society meetings with Central America, which this year will include a workshop on market access, a joint meeting of the Advisory Groups and an open Civil Society Dialogue Forum. In the afternoon, a video-conference with Central American partners took place to discuss preparations for joint meetings.
During the meeting, the EU DAG had an opportunity to discuss with Mr. Helmut Scholz, Member of the European Parliament, implementation of the Trade and Sustainable Development Title and work of the civil society monitoring mechanism in the framework of the EU-Colombia and Peru Trade Agreement. Moreover, the representatives of the European External Action Service (EEAS) presented information about the EU relations and cooperation with Colombia and Peru. Based on the Second Annual Report, the Commission representative provided information about the implementation of the Trade Agreement, changes in trade flows and work of joint bodies. He also informed about the procedures and timeline related to Ecuador's accession to the Agreement.
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.
During the meeting, the representative of the European External Action Service (EEAS) presented information about the EU relations and cooperation with Central America. Based on the Second Annual Report, the Commission representative provided information about the implementation of the trade pillar of the Association Agreement, changes in trade flows and work of joint bodies established by the Agreement. The EU Advisory Group discussed also preparations for the next meeting with Central America under the Trade and Sustainable Development Title, as well as the ways to better communicate its activities to the Central American partners and other relevant stakeholders.