During the meeting, the EEAS representative presented information about the EU relations with the Republic of Korea. The European Commission updated participants on the implementation of the EU-Korea FTA and its trade and sustainable development chapter. It also presented the state of play and the next steps in the ex-post evaluation of the agreement as well as the preparation of joint projects with Korea. The EU DAG also had the opportunity to discuss with a Member of the European Parliament the work of the civil society monitoring mechanism in the framework of the EU-Korea FTA. The EU DAG discussed moreover amendments to its rules of procedure and lessons learned from its first mandate (2012-2015) and proceeded to elect the Chair for the new term. Preparatory discussions were held in view of the next EU-Korea Civil Society Forum due to take place in Brussels, in the second semester of 2016.
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In Asia, the EESC maintains relations with civil society organisations in China, Japan and South-Korea. An official Civil Society Round Table with China is in place: it was set up in 2007 following the 9th EU-China Summit and convenes at least once a year. In recent years, the Committee has invested in developing closer relations with organised civil society in Japan, in view of the EU-Japan Free Trade Agreement which assigns a monitoring and advisory role to civil society.
The EU- Republic of Korea Free Trade Agreement, which entered into force in 2011, was the first of the so-called new generation of EU trade agreements. These agreements are characterised by the inclusion of trade and sustainable development chapters, and give the EESC – together with civil society organisations in Korea – a formal role in monitoring its implementation and advising the respective political authorities in the areas of environmental, social and labour standards and other matters which are of direct relevance to civil society. Three meetings of the EU Domestic Advisory Group are held in each year; a joint meeting takes place once a year.
Furthermore, the EESC engages with civil society in other Asian countries and in relevant international events on an ad hoc basis. One example is the bi-annual Europe-Asia People's Forum, the interregional civil society platform, which is part of the Asia-Europe Meeting.
During the meeting, the composition of the presidency was confirmed. The Group discussed its mandate, and proposed topics ahead of the 2019 Civil Society Forum. Moreover, the EU DAG discussed with representatives of the EC matters related to the implementation of the EU-Korea FTA under three pillars of sustainable development.
During the meeting, the civil society representatives from the EU and the Republic of Korea, i.e. members of their Domestic Advisory Groups (DAGs) discussed the latest developments related to implementation of the Trade and Sustainable Development chapter of the EU-Korea FTA, as well as relations between trade and green growth, and trade and labour rights respectively.
During the meeting, the representatives of the Embassy of the Republic of Korea and of the European External Action Service (EEAS) delivered presentations about the EU-Korea relations, in particular in the light of the outcomes of the EU-Korea Summit held in November 2013 in Brussels. In addition, representatives of the Commission (DG TRADE) provided information about implementation of the EU-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and outcomes of the Trade Committee meeting from October 2013. The EU DAG discussed also follow up to the 2nd EU–Korea Civil Society Forum and the seminar on labour rights which had taken place in Seoul on 12-13 September 2013.
The 14th EU-China Civil Society Round Table took place in Brussels on 18 and 19 May 2016. Topics set up for discussion during this meeting of the Round Table were Innovation and economic development in rural areas, and Infrastucture and investment, in the framework of the One Belt One Road initiative and the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). The aim of the discussions was to find common ground and exchange ideas and best practices.
In September 2013, the EESC decided to draft an own-initiative opinion (OIO), examining the Role of Civil Society in the negotiations leading to a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the EU and Japan. This agreement not only deals with trade; it will have important economic, social and environmental consequences for both societies. The opinion will highlight these expected consequences, with a view to ensuring they are duly taken into account by both parties, during the negotiating process.
During the meeting, the EU DAG will discuss with a representative of the European Parliament the progress in work on its report on implementation of the EU-Korea FTA. The Group may also inquire about the outcomes of the EP's mission to the Republic of Korea, which took place in May 2016. The European Commission will update participants on the state of play and the next steps in the ex-post evaluation of the agreement as well as implementation of the EU-Korea joint project related to the ILO Convention No. 111. The Commission will also inform the Group about the preparations for the meetings with Korea under the trade and sustainable development chapter, which will be held in Brussels by the end of 2016. The EU DAG will discuss moreover preparations for the next EU-Korea Civil Society Forum.
In the last two decades a continuous decline of the role of industry in the EU economy owing partially to the relocation of business to Asian countries. The EESC public hearing aims to examine what are the adequate conditions, challenges and economic incentives for the manufacturers to progress the reshoring of their industrial activities.
The EESC Employers' Group is organising a seminar on "Strengthening European Growth and Competitiveness: Proactive Trade Agenda – NOW!" taking place on 26 October in Helsinki and jointly organized with the Confederation of Finnish Industries and the International Chamber of Commerce, ICC Finland.
Trade and Investment are hugely important for the EU: 1 in 7 EU jobs depend on exports. The EU cannot risk falling behind in the global race to build a wide and ambitious network of free trade agreements. The signing of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement (involving 12 countries and 40% of world GDP) is a timely reminder of this. This seminar, which will be attended by many of our Members together with Finnish employers and entrepreneurs, politicians and academics aims to examine how to best contribute positively to the debate as trade agreements (TTIP - TISA - CETA - EU-JAPAN) increasingly become a top political issue.