The Role of Civil Society in the negotiation and implementation of an EU-Japan Free Trade Agreement

This own initiative opinion looks to examine the agreement already under negotiation between EU and Japan (being the third non-European EU trade partner) and in particular its economic, social and environmental consequences. This agreement is not only dealing with trade, but will have on societies expected consequences to be enlightened and taken in account by negotiators. The automobile sector, public procurement, services, agricultural and pharmaceutical products sectors are, among others, concerned.

The opinion will explore ways in which civil society on both sides could be represented and have the possibility to express their voice. The opinion is fully in accordance with Rule 29.B of the Implementing Provisions of the Rules of Procedure, as it is very topical and touches a problem which has not yet been commented on by the EESC previously. The timing is absolutely appropriate and it is clear that the opinion will bring an important added value to the on-going negotiation process.

Economic impact assessment established by the Commission estimates that the FTA will result in the creation of 400 000 more jobs for the EU by reducing tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade, and in 1% GDP growth. The FTAs are an external dimension of the Single Market; this FTA is important from the point of view Europe 2020 (external dimension of Europe 2020), for global demand, youth employment, sustainable development. It will make EU better known in Japan by everyone, and especially by social partners, consumers, NGOs, students, women.

It seems that early 2014 is the last moment for organised civil society to submit an opinion, if the EESC wants its comments to be taken into account in the negotiation process. Additionally - the added value of the EESC, asking for civil society representation inside the future agreement, is to share with a developed third country the European, democratic way of organising civil society. This will also give citizens the possibility to be informed, to express their opinions on what will be done in their country through trade, and to give structured opinions to decision makers when the Agreement is implemented.