Recommendations to strengthen civil society engagement in EU trade agreements

Jeske van Seters and Nadia Ashraf argue that a reform of civil society mechanisms in trade agreements is not just timely but necessary for actors to consider the engagement worth the investment.

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    The EU is a frontrunner in institutionalising the participation of civil society actors in trade agreements. Domestic Advisory Groups (DAGs) and joint civil society meetings can act as instruments to further sustainability dimensions of EU trade agreements. In practice, however, civil society mechanisms in EU trade agreements have received strong criticism. There is limited evidence of substantial outcomes achieved by these mechanisms, and stakeholders are increasingly disappointed with the lack of progress made.

    This note presents concrete recommendations to enhance the effectiveness and added value of DAGs and joint civil society meetings, in terms of composition, scope, organisation and channels of input, as a contribution to the public consultation on the EU trade policy review.

    The note is based on ECDPM Discussion Paper 276, which highlights key issues when it comes to the functioning of civil society mechanisms and offers a more extensive explanation of the recommendations presented.

    This note is part of our work for Respect: Realising Europe’s soft power in external cooperation and trade.

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