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).
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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.
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.
The 15th EU-China Civil Society Round Table will take place in Beijing from 28 to 30 June 2017. To mark this anniversary edition of the Round Table – it has been 10 years since it was first set up – an overarching theme, “Partnership for Growth, Civilization of mutual benefit”, was chosen. Thematic session will examine key aspects of this partnership.
During the meeting, the representative of the European External Action Service (EEAS) provided information about EU-Korea relations following the entry into force of the new Framework Agreement on 1 June 2014. Moreover, the Commission (DG TRADE) provided update concerning implementation of the trade and sustainable development chapter of the EU-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and preparations for the meetings with Korea planned for December 2014. In this context, the EU DAG discussed also its contributions to a debate with Korea during the Civil Society Forum, notably on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Emission Trading System (ETS).
During the meeting, the EU DAG discussed with a representative of the European Commission the outcome and follow-up of the last CTSD meeting, held on March 24th, as well as the Commission's annual report on the EU-Korea FTA that was presented in June. Presentations of the recent developments in the Republic of Korea were also made by representatives of the correspondent country desk oin the European Commission and the EEAS. The EP shadow rapporteur on the implementation of the Free Trade Agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Korea, Dr Joachim Schuster, MEP (S&D Group), presented the European Parliament resolution adopted on 18 May 2017 to the EU DAG.
During the meeting, the Commission (DG TRADE) provided information on implementation of the EU-Korea FTA, as well as update on plurilateral negotiations (green goods initiative) aiming at liberalisation of trade in environmental goods and services. The EU DAG discussed also follow-up to the Trade and Sustainable Development Committee and the EU-Korea Civil Society Forum (CSF) held on 8-9 December 2014 and preparations for the next ones to take place on 9-10 September 2015 in Seoul. In line with the EU-Korea CSF Conclusions, a particular attention was dedicated to the question of labour standards, notably trade unions rights in Korea. The afternoon session of the EU DAG meeting was dedicated to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
In the light of the agreement in principle reached in July 2017 between the EU and Japan on an Economic Partnership Agreement, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC)'s Follow-up Committees on International Trade and Japan are taking the opportunity to organise a half-day joint seminar. The seminar aims at examining the significance of the EU-Japan Agreement in the global context, reflecting on the role that civil society may play in the implementation of such agreement, and aims to assess possible challenges and benefits for different stakeholders (the business community, workers, farmers, consumers, etc.).