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.
In the light of the ongoing EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) is drafting an own-initiative opinion on "The position of the EESC on specific key issues of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations". In this framework, the EESC is organising a public hearing, to be held at the Committee premises on 30 June 2016, beginning at 9 a.m.
During the meeting, the Commission representative provided information about the implementation of the project on labour standards delivered in cooperation with the ILO in El Salvador and Guatemala. The Commission also informed about preparations for meetings with Central America planned for 15-17 June in Honduras, in particular meeting of the intergovernmental Board on Trade and Sustainable Development. The EU Advisory Group then discussed preparations for the civil society meetings with Central America, which this year will include a workshop on market access, a joint meeting of the Advisory Groups and an open Civil Society Dialogue Forum. In the afternoon, a video-conference with Central American partners took place to discuss preparations for joint meetings.
This public hearing will discuss the current state of multilateral trade negotiations on agriculture. After the Nairobi agreement of export competition, some progress could be made on the areas of market access (tariffs and quotas) and, to some extent, on domestic support.
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.
The Consultative Committee (CC) is one of the 5 institutions foreseen in the EU-CARIFORUM Economic Partnership Agreement. The CC is composed of 40 (25 from the CARIFORM side and 15 from the EU side) standing representatives of organisations of the civil society representing employers' organisations, trade unions, other economic, social and non-governmental organisations, including development and environmental organisations; and the academic community.
During the meeting, the representative of the European External Action Service (EEAS) presented information about the EU relations and cooperation with Central America. Based on the Second Annual Report, the Commission representative provided information about the implementation of the trade pillar of the Association Agreement, changes in trade flows and work of joint bodies established by the Agreement. The EU Advisory Group discussed also preparations for the next meeting with Central America under the Trade and Sustainable Development Title, as well as the ways to better communicate its activities to the Central American partners and other relevant stakeholders.
The External Relations Section (REX) of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) is responsible for dialogue between European civil society organisations and their homologues from the countries with which the European Union has formal relations (e.g. under the form of a Free Trade Agreement). Through this dialogue, made possible by a series of bilateral bodies, and through specialized opinions and information reports, the Committee is able to concretely contribute to EU foreign policy.
EESC Employers’ Group priorities
The 1st European Civil Society Forum on Trade and Sustainable Development organised by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) took place as a hybrid meeting on 29 March 2022.
This report and its recommendations reflect the discussions and different speakers’ view.