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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.
Opinion on the Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on protection against subsidised imports from countries not members of the European Union (codification)
The European Commission review of EU trade strategy is timely in the first year of a new Commission.
The intense public interest that has been aroused by the TTIP negotiations between the EU and the US demonstrates that trade is no longer an esoteric matter nor the concern of those few who are sufficiently involved to master the finer, highly technical detail that trade involves. It is now a popular issue and part of the public agenda, but because of its technicalities it is also open to wide misunderstanding.
The European Economic and Social Committee would like to reiterate its commitment to the WTO as the guardian of international trade and a crucible for developing rules and disciplines to ensure fair trade, the liberalisation of trade in goods and services, and transparency in trade-related policy-making.
The EESC opinion will be dedicated to standalone investment agreements, with a particular emphasis on issues related to sustainable development and civil society involvement. It will contribute to the on-going discussion on the content and level of ambition of sustainable development chapters in the EU standalone investment agreements, as well as on civil society role in the course of negotiations and at the implementation stage.
In its opinion the EESC underlines that the social economy is a key player and helps to achieve the objectives of all European policies with an external dimension: external and security policy, trade policy, neighbourhood policy, climate change policy, development cooperation and sustainable development policy. However, the lack of an appropriate regulatory environment, at both European and national level, prevents this sector from developing its full potential and maximising its impact. The Commission and the Member States must promote the participation, consultation and coordination of their external entrepreneurial and development cooperation activities with the bodies representing the social economy at European and national level, as well as with those of partner countries, and with international social economy organisations with a North-South and South-South dimension.
The EU today faces an increasing demand for a constructive dialogue with civil society on trade, as seen with CETA and TTIP. Domestic advisory groups (DAG) are a great way to connect citizens with trade issues. DAG should responsibly advise on all aspects of EU Trade Agreements.
Domestic advisory groups should be advisory, consultative, institutionalized and competent to cover all provisions of FTAs.
The EESC considers that the participation of civil society in all FTAs is an indispensable element in the strategic ambitions of the external policies of the EU.
The EESC considers its participation in DAGs valuable and wishes to continue to be part of all of them.
The EESC asks budgetary authorities for an additional budget to support Domestic Advisory Groups to fulfil the expected work in terms of quantity and quality.
• The EESC acknowledges the quality of civil society's contribution prior to publication of the communication, as well as the efforts made by the Commission to implement the trade-related aspects of the Agenda for Change. It also welcomes the attention given to the evaluation of trade policies in this communication.
• The EESC regrets that this new communication heralds no significant change to EU policy on the link between trade and development policies.
• The EESC reiterates its recommendation to incorporate sustainable development provisions into free-trade agreements and to provide for procedures enabling ex post analysis of these agreements by the EESC.
• The EESC recalls the importance of producing sui generis development strategies that combine domestic and trade policies with a view to sustainable and inclusive growth.
Opinion on the Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council protecting against the effects of the extra-territorial application of legislation adopted by a third country and actions based thereon or resulting therefrom (recast)