Press Release | 08 Jul. 2020

Ten steps to mainstream gender in trade deals

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It's no secret that mainstreaming gender in free trade agreements creates more inclusiveness. Yet most accords don't even mention gender - and those that do, typically fail to offer women the same opportunities as men to participate in trade.

The International Trade Centre's new report, Mainstreaming Gender in Free Trade Agreements, addresses this shortfall with 10 key recommendations for the design, content and scope of trade deals.

Drafting accords with gender explicit preambles, explicit access to skill development and compulsory dispute settlement mechanisms are among the recommendations in the report, launched at a joint event with the Organization of Women in International Trade.

'This publication answers the call of policymakers and trade negotiators to provide a practical guide to create more inclusive accords,' said Dorothy Tembo, ITC Executive Director a.i. 'Gender mainstreaming ensures that these agreements promote more equitable opportunities rather than perpetuate inequalities.'

More than a quarter of the 292 agreements in force today and notified to the World Trade Organization have at least one provision that explicitly mentions gender. 'The last three years have been phenomenal in this respect,' the report says.

This report builds on analysis of 73 trade pacts in Commonwealth countries, and the results are similar.  Just 28% use best practices to mainstream gender concerns, meaning they have considerable scope to improve. Only 5% are advanced, as they use best practices and need little or no upgrade, and 40% make no explicit reference at all to gender considerations.

Change is under way, however, as governments increasingly recognize that taking account of the differences between men and women makes good business sense, the report says.

Tools for policymakers, negotiators and researchers

The most important takeaways from the analysis are summarized in 10 recommendations showing where to embed gender provisions in an accord, what specific actions are needed to create equal opportunities for women and how to ensure that the measures have teeth.

Ten model clauses accompany the recommendations, providing ready-made legal language to simplify the work of policymakers and trade negotiators.

The report also features a tool that allows policymakers and researchers to track national performance on gender in existing trade agreements, as well as new agreements underway.

Among the challenges to mainstreaming gender in trade agreements are a lack of awareness that these accords empower women, and too little data that tracks specifically the impact on women in business. In some cases, the lack of political will or inadequate expertise on gender issues among negotiators is a factor, the report says.

'The impact of gender mainstreaming on women and trade will only become visible with the passage of time,' it says. In the meantime, the guide presented in the report can help countries move in that direction.


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