The 14th meeting of the EU Advisory Group for the EU-Central America Association Agreement took place on 14 January 2019 in Brussels. Please click on the programme tab to consult the topics on the agenda.
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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 EESC is asking the following questions: Is EU trade policy coherent with the EU sustainable development objectives? Does it provide for high levels of consumer protection, environmental and social standards? Is civil society properly involved in the development and implementation of trade agreements? What are the risks and opportunities created by the current negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)?
During the meeting, the Commission (DG TRADE) provided information on implementation of the EU-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and its trade and sustainable development chapter. The EU DAG held also the first preparatory discussion before the EU-Korea Civil Society Forum. The Group discussed in this context its contribution on Corporate Social Responsibility.
During the meeting, the members of the DAG debriefed on the results of the meeting with Colombia and Peru under the Trade and Sustainable Development Title, which took place on 7-8 December in Brussels . The representatives of the European External Action Service (EEAS) presented information about the EU relations and cooperation with Colombia and Peru. The Representatives of the DG Trade informed the members of the DAG on recent developments regarding the Trade and Sustainable development chapter as well as on their recent mission to Ecuador. The Group held then an internal debate on the topics to be selected for the next joint meetings, on the state of play of constitution of DAGs in Colombia and Peru and on the rights of indigene communities in Peru.
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 discussed the mandate of the EU DAG, working methods, reporting procedures and cooperation with other civil society organisations, as well as exchanged views on its rules of procedure. Additionally, the members of the EU DAG exchanged 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 representative of the European External Action Service (EEAS) provided information about EU-Korea relations following the entry into force of the new Framework Agreement on 1 June 2014. Moreover, the Commission (DG TRADE) provided update concerning implementation of the trade and sustainable development chapter of the EU-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and preparations for the meetings with Korea planned for December 2014. In this context, the EU DAG discussed also its contributions to a debate with Korea during the Civil Society Forum, notably on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Emission Trading System (ETS).
During the meeting, the EU Advisory Group presented its activities and communication tools, including the website, to the representatives of the Embassies of the Central American countries. It discussed progress in implementation of the Trade and Sustainable Development Title and proposals for follow-up actions to the joint meeting with Central American Advisory Groups held in May 2015. The Group discussed also with the Commission representatives preparation for the annual meeting with Central America planned for 2016. Moreover, the Commission representatives delivered a presentation about the EU programmes and projects for Central America, which are relevant for the Trade and Sustainable Development Title.
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.
Following up the opinion adopted by the EESC on Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the Employers' Group of the EESC organises the debate entitled "What development opportunities will the TTIP give Europe?" The discussion will take place during European Forum for New Ideas in Sopot, Poland. The panellists will discuss what are the benefits and challenges coming from TTIP and will analyse consequences of closer regulatory cooperation.
During the meeting, the Commission (DG TRADE) provided information on implementation of the EU-Korea FTA, as well as update on plurilateral negotiations (green goods initiative) aiming at liberalisation of trade in environmental goods and services. The EU DAG discussed also follow-up to the Trade and Sustainable Development Committee and the EU-Korea Civil Society Forum (CSF) held on 8-9 December 2014 and preparations for the next ones to take place on 9-10 September 2015 in Seoul. In line with the EU-Korea CSF Conclusions, a particular attention was dedicated to the question of labour standards, notably trade unions rights in Korea. The afternoon session of the EU DAG meeting was dedicated to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).