In September 2013, the EESC decided to draft an own-initiative opinion (OIO), examining the Role of Civil Society in the negotiations leading to a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the EU and Japan. This agreement not only deals with trade; it will have important economic, social and environmental consequences for both societies. The opinion will highlight these expected consequences, with a view to ensuring they are duly taken into account by both parties, during the negotiating process.
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In Asia, the EESC maintains relations with civil society organisations in China, Japan and South-Korea. An official Civil Society Round Table with China is in place: it was set up in 2007 following the 9th EU-China Summit and convenes at least once a year. In recent years, the Committee has invested in developing closer relations with organised civil society in Japan, in view of the EU-Japan Free Trade Agreement which assigns a monitoring and advisory role to civil society.
The EU- Republic of Korea Free Trade Agreement, which entered into force in 2011, was the first of the so-called new generation of EU trade agreements. These agreements are characterised by the inclusion of trade and sustainable development chapters, and give the EESC – together with civil society organisations in Korea – a formal role in monitoring its implementation and advising the respective political authorities in the areas of environmental, social and labour standards and other matters which are of direct relevance to civil society. Three meetings of the EU Domestic Advisory Group are held in each year; a joint meeting takes place once a year.
Furthermore, the EESC engages with civil society in other Asian countries and in relevant international events on an ad hoc basis. One example is the bi-annual Europe-Asia People's Forum, the interregional civil society platform, which is part of the Asia-Europe Meeting.
During the meeting, the EU DAG will discuss with a representative of the European Parliament the progress in work on its report on implementation of the EU-Korea FTA. The Group may also inquire about the outcomes of the EP's mission to the Republic of Korea, which took place in May 2016. The European Commission will update participants on the state of play and the next steps in the ex-post evaluation of the agreement as well as implementation of the EU-Korea joint project related to the ILO Convention No. 111. The Commission will also inform the Group about the preparations for the meetings with Korea under the trade and sustainable development chapter, which will be held in Brussels by the end of 2016. The EU DAG will discuss moreover preparations for the next EU-Korea Civil Society Forum.
In the last two decades a continuous decline of the role of industry in the EU economy owing partially to the relocation of business to Asian countries. The EESC public hearing aims to examine what are the adequate conditions, challenges and economic incentives for the manufacturers to progress the reshoring of their industrial activities.
The EESC Employers' Group is organising a seminar on "Strengthening European Growth and Competitiveness: Proactive Trade Agenda – NOW!" taking place on 26 October in Helsinki and jointly organized with the Confederation of Finnish Industries and the International Chamber of Commerce, ICC Finland.
Trade and Investment are hugely important for the EU: 1 in 7 EU jobs depend on exports. The EU cannot risk falling behind in the global race to build a wide and ambitious network of free trade agreements. The signing of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement (involving 12 countries and 40% of world GDP) is a timely reminder of this. This seminar, which will be attended by many of our Members together with Finnish employers and entrepreneurs, politicians and academics aims to examine how to best contribute positively to the debate as trade agreements (TTIP - TISA - CETA - EU-JAPAN) increasingly become a top political issue.
During the meeting, the EU DAG will discuss with a representative of the European Parliament the progress in work on its report on implementation of the EU-Korea FTA. The European Commission will update participants on the state of play and the next steps in the implementation of the EU-Korea joint project related to the ILO Convention No. 111. The EU DAG will discuss moreover preparations for the next EU-Korea Civil Society Forum.
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).
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).
Hearing on EU-Central Asia Strategy
On 3 December, a Hearing on EU-Central Asia relations was organised at the EESC premises in Brussels. The incoming Latvian presidency has requested an exploratory opinion from the EESC, which will serve as input for the Council discussions on the biennial review of the EU-central Asia Strategy for Partnership scheduled for early 2015.
About 30 well-informed participants contributed to a lively and informative debate, around two sessions:
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, the Commission (DG TRADE) provided information on implementation of the EU-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and its trade and sustainable development chapter. The EU DAG held also the first preparatory discussion before the EU-Korea Civil Society Forum. The Group discussed in this context its contribution on Corporate Social Responsibility.