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.
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 discussion focussed on the preparation (topics, stakeholders, organizational aspects) of the Civil Society Forum with Korea and the Workshop on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), held In February in Brussels (20-21 February 2017).
During the meeting, the Commission representative provided information about the annual meetings of the Board on Trade and Sustainable Development (BTSD), as well as the debate on the participation of the advisory groups and their dialogue with the BTSD. Members also discussed the future of the advisory groups under the Trade and Sustainable Development Title of the European Union's agreements and the Renewal of the European advisory group's mandates (April 2018).
In recent years, EU trade policy has become a true issue of debate in the civil society at national level: that shows the need to bring trade policy closer to EU citizens. EU Member States have different existing national structures, procedures and consultation methods, as well as ratification processes; however, citizens from most countries not always seem to be able to fully express their voices in national debates on trade policy. The objective of the event was that of a) assessing and examining the different kinds of consultation procedures that exist in the Member States; b) exploring how civil society and consultative structures, wherever they exist, are informed or consulted on negotiations and implementation of trade agreements, and c) promoting the experience of the EESC in the domain of the EU trade policy.
In 2004 the European Union experienced its biggest enlargement so far, welcoming 10 new Member States. A decade later, members of the Employers' Group representing employers' organisations from these countries summarise the changes that have taken place thanks to accession to the EU.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is the biggest and most ambitious free trade agreement currently being negotiated by the European Union. Economists believe that an agreement with the USA will be advantageous for both the European Union and the USA, and the negative effects of trade liberalisation will be insignificant. This publication is a summary of the debate on "What development opportunities does the TTIP bring to Europe?" that was held in Sopot on 2 October 2014 as part of the European Forum for New Ideas.