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Trade and Gender

uOttawa Students part of the Trade & Gender Group: Sama Al Mutair, Lisa Page and Dora Konomi (left to right)

Exploring International Practices that Promote Women's Economic Empowerment

Clinic: uOttawa-Queen's Joint Clinic, Spring 2018

Beneficiary: International Trade Center (ITC), Geneva

To read and download the full report, please visit here.

The carried out two projects on Trade and Gender for the International Trade Center (ITC), Geneva.


The Joint Declaration on Trade and Women’s Economic Empowerment was endorsed at the WTO Ministerial Conference Meeting in Buenos Aires in December 2017. It acknowledges, among other things, that “inclusive trade policies can contribute to advancing gender equality and women’s economic empowerment, which has a positive impact on economic growth and helps to reduce poverty.” The 118 WTO members and observers who supported the Declaration affirmed their commitment to “effectively implement the obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women” and agreed to collaborate on making their trade and development policies more gender responsive in a number of ways.

The ITC hopes that the Ottawa and Queen’s projects will produce results that will assist WTO members to implement key goals of the Declaration.

Focus of the uOttawa and Queen's Reports

The uOttawa project is dedicated to helping remove barriers for women’s economic empowerment and increase their participation in trade. It includes a “stocktaking” of governments’ best practices for gender-inclusive trade policies and gender-mainstreaming approaches for small business, including laws, regulations, and trade agreements.

The Queen’s project focuses on the enhancement of women entrepreneurs’ participation in public procurement. It examines public procurement models and tools used in a number of countries with a view to assessing their strengths and weaknesses for promoting bidder diversity and inclusivity of specific groups.

The summary of the uOttawa project is provided below. To read and download the full uOttawa report, please visit here. To read more about the Queen's report, see here.

Executive Summary

At the request of the International Trade Centre in Geneva, we were asked to prepare a report on the extent to which international trade agreements include and support women’s economic participation. To achieve this, we describe specific examples of governments’ trade agreements and policies that constitute good examples of trade inclusive approaches. These examples aim to expand market access and business opportunities for women in trade. The stocktaking of best practices is for the use of Members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and to assist them in how to make their trade agreements and policies more inclusive.

In January 2016, the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) committed to leaving nobody behind. The SDGs represent a universal call to action for ending poverty through tackling economic inequality, as a continuation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Reaching the SDGs requires the partnership of governments, businesses, civil society organizations and individuals to achieve a better future for all. In particular, Goal 5 of the SDGs seeks to empower women and girls under its broader mandate to support trade inclusiveness.

However, an economic gap continues to exist between men and women. A number of cultural, educational, financial, regulatory and other factors contribute to this gender economy gap (See Appendix 1 for a description of barriers to women’s trade participation). Women generate only about 37% of gross domestic product (GDP) and manage only about a third of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). In an International Trade Centre survey, only one in five women owned exporting companies. Accordingly, macro-economic policies and trade agreements between governments should play a critical role in mitigating some of these challenges.

In line with the SDGs, WTO Members and observers endorsed a collective initiative to increase the participation of women in trade. To help women reach their full potential in the world economy, WTO Members and observers agreed to support the Buenos Aires Declaration on Women and Trade (Declaration). The Declaration seeks to economically empower women through removing trade barriers and fostering meaningful participation in the economy. These barriers include women’s lack of access to trade financing, less active participation in public procurement markets, underrepresentation in business activities, gender pay gap and family responsibilities. Overall, the Declaration signifies the first time that participants attending a WTO Ministerial Conference issued a declaration calling for enhanced inclusion of women in trade.

WTO Members achieving the actions set out in the Declaration aim to boost economic growth worldwide and provide access to better paid jobs for women. The Declaration enables participants to exchange information about what has worked and less effective strategies to closing the gender gap. Further, this information exchange enables participants to collect gender-disaggregated economic data and to evaluate the effectiveness of policies aimed to improve women’s economic positions. Participants can also discuss ways to ensure that trade-related development assistance focuses on women and progress of this will be reported in 2019.

The first section of the report describes governments’ best practices of laws, regulations, policies and trade agreements. Actions by the governments of Rwanda, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Canada and Mexico are focused on. These best practices include gender-focused implementation strategies and tools, legislation, budgeting, educational initiatives and employment opportunities. Through government subsidies and benefits, social considerations are also given to women’s disproportionate impoverishment relative to men and how this impacts women’s ability to participate in trade.

Additionally, the first section discusses how governments have attempted to make trade agreements more inclusive. The Canadian and Chilean governments have advanced a progressive approach by recently signing the Canada-Chile Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA), which includes a gender chapter (Appendix 3). This gender chapter was modelled after the gender chapter in the Chile-Uruguay Free Trade Agreement (CUFTA) (Appendix 2). Both gender chapters contain key provisions on rights commitments, cooperation activities, gender committees and dispute settlement.

The second section of the report makes the five following recommendations on how governments should develop trade policies and agreements that promote economic empowerment of women in trade:

  • Include an equal number of women in high-level policy-making and trade-negotiating roles to shape key decisions.

  • Collect data on the economic status of women to inform evidence-based policies and trade agreements.

  • Create effective tools to holistically examine data on the economic status of women, which considers interrelated social, cultural, political, racial and other related factors.

  • Hold public consultations with women-led businesses, organizations, and communities to better inform trade policies and agreements.

  • Negotiate trade agreements that have gender chapters, as well as gender-related provisions in other chapters and preambles to advance women’s full participation in international trade.

To read and download the full report, please visit here.

#Gender #uOttawa #uOttawaQueens #WTO #TradeBarriers #SMEs #UnitedNations #Information #ITC #Negotiation

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