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.
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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.
During the meeting, the Commission representatives (DG TRADE) provided information concerning implementation of the EU-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and its trade and sustainable development chapter. On the latter, the Commission provided also information concerning preparations for the meeting with the Korean Government representatives planned for 11 September 2013. The EU DAG discussed also its contributions to discussion with the Korean counterparts at the labour workshop and EU-Korea Civil Society Forum scheduled for 12-13 September 2013 in Seoul. For this purpose, the Group prepared two positions: on labour standards and on green economy and trade.
During the meeting, the EU-Korea Civil Society Forum, bringing together members of the EU and Korea Domestic Advisory Groups (employers, workers and NGOs) discussed matters related to implementation of the Trade and Sustainable Development chapter of the EU-Korea FTA. Particular attention was dedicated to issues, such as labour standards, liberalisation of trade in environmental goods, climate change policy and the Emission Trading System (ETS), as well as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
Joint hearing of the "SMEs, Crafts and Liberal professions" Category and the study group REX/433 "TTIP and its impact on SMEs"
During the meeting, the representatives of the EU and Central American Advisory Groups discussed the mandate and composition of the Advisory Groups as envisaged by the Trade and Sustainable Development Title, as well as possible ways of their cooperation and topics for future discussions. The participants were of the view that joint meetings of the Advisory Groups held back-to-back to the annual meetings of the Board on Trade and Sustainable Development and Civil Society Dialogue Forum provide a useful framework for a structured, in-depth discussion between the civil society representatives from EU and Central America. They also concurred that the Parties should facilitate presence of the Advisory Groups and other civil society representatives in the annual meetings. The participants adopted a Joint Declaration which was presented to the Civil Society Dialogue Forum and the Board on 19 November 2014.
During the 5th EU-Korea Civil Society Forum (CSF), participants will discuss labour standards with the ILO representative, including progress achieved by both Parties to the Agreement as well as the next steps in the ratification and effective implementation of the ILO fundamental and other up-to-date conventions. Both DAGs also will exchange information about the role of civil society in the EU and the Republic of Korea in the development and implementation of the climate change policy at national, EU and international level. They then will adopt final conclusions.
During the meeting, members of the GCI were informed by the President on the civil society meeting of EuroLat's standing parliamentary committees (22-24 May), the hearing in the Walloon Parliament concerning the current state of The EU-Colombia, Peru and the FTA of Ecuador, as well as the public with DG Trade on the current status of the Advisory Groups. They were then interviewed by the European Commission on the preparation of the 2017 Civil Society Forum and the process of Ecuador's accession to the agreement.
The 9th meeting of the EU Advisory Group for the EU-Central America Association Agreement took place on 14 October in Brussels.
With a view to gathering as much input as possible during the preparatory process for the proposed opinion from a wide range of experts, the hearing will include preliminary presentation on the governance, functioning and structure of the WTO with an exploration towards the strategic role that civil society can represent in a wider plurality of interests and a larger scope of collaboration.
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.