Trade and Gender
Members: 127/164
Open Initiative
Status: Ministerial Statement Agreed for MC12

At the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference in December 2017, trade and gender was raised formally on the WTO agenda with 118 WTO members endorsing the Buenos Aires Declaration on Trade and Women’s Economic Empowerment. The Declaration aimed to increase women’s participation in international trade, cultivate their economic empowerment and to remove the barriers facing them in the process.

Thereafter in September 2020 an Informal Working Group on Trade and Gender was initiated to bolster efforts towards these goals to improve women’s participation in global trade.  It was agreed that there was an important need for the WTO to address issues related to the economic empowerment of women, which has become more pronounced as a result of the disproportionate impact of the COVID 19 pandemic on women.  The Working Group aims to minimise these impacts and support women in moving forward with targeted actions.

 

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About this Plurilateral
Scope and Coverage

The Working Group has a work plan set out under four pillars which is assessing how women can benefit from the Aid for Trade initiative; applying a ‘gender lens’ to the WTO’s work programme; Reviewing existing gender-related Research and analysis and promoting and adopting best practice workshops/webinars.  The scope of activities of The Informal Working Group (IWG) on Trade and Gender was based on both the Buenos Aires Declaration on Trade and Women’s Economic Empowerment as well as the Interim WTO Report that established the Informal Working Group.  It was agreed that there was an important need for the WTO to address issues related to the economic empowerment of women, which has become more pronounced as a result of the disproportionate impact of the COVID 19 pandemic on women. The Working Group aims to minimise these impacts and support women in moving forward with targeted actions. This Work Plan is based on the originally agreed pillars and is broadly set out as follows:

  1. Sharing experiences relating to policies and programs to encourage women’s participation in national and international trade through World Trade Organization (WTO) information exchanges, as appropriate, and voluntary reporting during the WTO trade policy review process;
  2. Sharing best practices for conducting gender-based analysis of trade policies and for the monitoring of their effects;
  3. Sharing methods and procedures for the collection of gender-disaggregated data, the use of indicators, monitoring and evaluation methodologies, and the analysis of gender-focused statistics related to trade,
  4. Working together in the WTO to remove barriers for women’s economic empowerment and increase their participation in trade; and
  5. Ensuring that Aid for Trade supports tools and know-how for analysing, designing and implementing more gender-responsive trade policies.

Further Proposals In support of these objectives the working group has set out proposals to:

  1. encourage member countries that have ambitious or innovative programmes to showcase their national and/or regional approaches and experiences as potential inspiration and guidance to others.
  2. Have the Group consider and clarify, what a ‘gender lens’ as a concept applied to international trade would entail, and, secondly, consider specifically how a gender lens could usefully be applied to the work of the WTO, with a view to presenting a concept and work plan to members at MC12;
  3. continue to share best practices, information and exchange views on removing trade-related barriers and increasing the participation of women in trade.
  4. review and discuss gender-related analytical work produced by the WTO Secretariat; and
  5. explore how best to support the delivery of the WTO Aid for Trade work programme.

Additional Approaches Beyond this, some members have incorporated gender related approaches in their Trade Policy Reviews and are advocating for this more widely in the WTO membership.  Similarly members are calling for eligibility criteria under Aid for Trade to adequately account for gender by building it into the assistance measures from the start, and then measuring effects to understand the scale of the impacts.  Other members have included a number of gender provisions in their bilateral and regional trade agreements.

Looking Ahead

The working group aims to present its work-plan on trade and gender issues,  in line with the pillars set out above, to members at the 12th Ministerial Conference in 2021. The working group aims to present its work-plan on trade and gender issues,  in line with the pillars set out above, to members at the 12th Ministerial Conference in 2021. A draft outcome document has been drawn up with recommendations for WTO members to support the increased participation of women in international trade. The group will especially set out how gender viewpoints and issues can be incorporated into the work programmes and committees of the WTO, including the WTO work programme on Aid for Trade. In addition the document suggests focusing on policies around data collection methods and tools, and the assessment of the impact of trade and trade policies on women as well as entrepreneurship and capacity building. Developing a workplan in the lead up to the 13th Ministerial Conference, will also be put forward. 

Membership

The following Members have publicly announced formal support for this initiative: Afghanistan; Albania; Andorra; Angola; Argentina; Australia; Bahamas; Barbados; Belarus; Benin; Botswana; Brazil; Burundi; Cambodia; Canada; Chad; Chile; China; Colombia; Costa Rica; Côte d’Ivoire; Democratic Republic of the Congo; Dominica; Dominican Republic; Ecuador; El Salvador; Eswatini; Ethiopia; European Union member states (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden); Fiji; Gabon; Gambia; Georgia; Grenada; Guatemala; Guinea; Guinea Bissau; Guyana; Haiti; Honduras; Iceland; Indonesia; Israel; Jamaica; Japan; Kazakhstan; Kenya; Korea (Republic of); Kyrgyzstan; Lao People’s Democratic Republic; Lesotho; Liberia; Liechtenstein; Madagascar; Malawi; Malaysia; Maldives; Mali; Mauritius; Mexico; Moldova; Mongolia; Montenegro; Myanmar; Namibia; New Zealand; Niger; Nigeria; North Macedonia; Norway; Pakistan; Panama; Paraguay; Peru; Philippines; Russia; Rwanda; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Samoa; Senegal; Serbia; Sierra Leone; Somalia; Sudan; Switzerland; Chinese Taipei; Tajikistan; Togo; Tonga; Trinidad and Tobago; Tunisia; Turkey; Uganda; Ukraine; United Arab Emirates; United Kingdom; United States, Uruguay; Vanuatu; Viet Nam and Zambia.  

Key Documents
News
  • WTO Ministerial Declaration on Trade and Gender on Indefinite Hold A planned Declaration on Trade, Gender Equality and Women's Economic Empowerment was not adopted at the twelfth WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12) in Geneva, contrary to expectations. IISD reporting suggests this should not be read as a significant chance to the future plans of members to continue working on women's economic empowerment issues.

  • IISD - WTO Heads for a Ministerial Declaration on Trade and Gender A Joint Ministerial Declaration on trade and gender will be adopted during MC12 and the US, which had not formally endorsed the trade and gender agenda created within the WTO, is now on board. However, some are disappointed the Declaration does not acknowledge the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

  • WTO - Trade and Gender Informal Working Group co-chairs present draft outcome document for MC12 Members of the Informal Working Group on Trade and Gender on 23 September discussed the first draft of an outcome document on trade’s role in women’s economic empowerment, which will be launched at the upcoming 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12), to be held on 30 November to 3 December in Geneva. The meeting also marked the first anniversary of the Working Group’s establishment.

  • WTO - DDG González underscores importance of women’s economic empowerment in trade In an opening address to a joint webinar marking the launch of a research and outreach project on “Gender and Trade in the Americas” on 3 August, Deputy Director-General Anabel González emphasized the central role of women in economic and social lives and the WTO´s work in supporting gender responsive trade policies. The webinars were organized by member institutions of the WTO Chairs Programme in Barbados, Chile, and Mexico with project funding provided by the Netherlands.

  • IISD - WTO Advances Gender Agenda Amidst Calls for Broader Gender Lens MC12 is now certain to see a trade and gender outcome. The WTO Secretariat is moving forward with initiatives on trade and gender, which include its Gender Research Hub, launched on 31 May 2021. The topic is proceeding almost without opposition in the WTO, but gender experts are critical of the WTO’s agenda content and process.

  • WTO - Members of Trade and Gender Informal Working Group discuss women empowerment initiatives Members of the Informal Working Group on Trade and Gender exchanged information on national experiences and approaches to increasing the participation of women in trade at a meeting on 28 April. Members highlighted the importance of training, data collection and mainstreaming gender considerations in trade negotiations and policy design as among key practices to ensure women reap the benefits of trade.

  • WTO - Members discuss work plan at first meeting of Informal Working Group on Trade and Gender Members exchanged ideas on how to further advance their understanding of the links between trade and gender and how to approach trade issues with a “gender lens” at the first meeting of the Informal Working Group on Trade and Gender on 10 December. Members also welcomed the release of the report by the International Gender Champions Trade Impact Group outlining 32 best practices in trade and gender policy.

  • WTO - New WTO working group established to deepen trade and gender discussions A group of WTO members agreed to establish an Informal Working Group on Trade and Gender on 23 September, marking the next phase of an initiative kickstarted in 2017 to increase the participation of women in trade. The online meeting to launch the new WTO working group was held at the invitation of Iceland and Botswana.

  • WTO - Buenos Aires Declaration on Women and Trade outlines actions to empower women For the first time in the history of the World Trade Organization, WTO members and observers have endorsed a collective initiative to increase the participation of women in trade. In order to help women reach their full potential in the world economy, 118 WTO members and observers agreed to support the Buenos Aires Declaration on Women and Trade, which seeks to remove barriers to, and foster, women’s economic empowerment.

Analysis and Articles
  • IISD - Five Key Elements for a Gender Lens in Trade Author: Caroline Dommen

    In June 2022, trade ministers from a large group of WTO members will adopt a declaration on trade, gender equality, and women’s economic empowerment. This move confirms that gendered aspects of trade are firmly on the international trade policy agenda. For this to have tangible benefits for women, though, it will be necessary to get the “gender lens” right. Here are five elements that should be considered when defining a gender lens for trade.

  • WEF - Global Value Chain Policy Series: Gender This paper examines how the expansion of Global Value Chains has changed the gender pattern of work across various stages of production and the opportunities and challenges this creates. It provides an overview of initiatives promoting women’s economic empowerment in GVCs.

  • The World Bank - Women and Trade: The Role of Trade in Promoting Women’s Equality The report, produced in collaboration with the World Trade Organization, marks the first major effort to quantify how women are affected by trade using a new gender-disaggregated dataset. The dataset, developed by the World Bank Group, allows researchers to understand how women are employed, in which industries they work, how much they earn, and whether or not they are involved in global trade. This analysis helps governments see how trade policies can affect women and men differently.

  • WTO & World Bank - Women and Trade: The role of trade in promoting gender equality In view of the complexity of the relationship between trade and gender, it is important to assess the potential impact of trade policy on both women and men and to develop appropriate policies to ensure that trade contributes to enhancing opportunities for all. Building on new analysis and data broken down by gender, this report: “Women and Trade: The role of trade in promoting gender equality” aims to advance understanding of the relationship between trade and gender equality and to identify opportunities through which trade can improve the lives of women.

  • EU Commission - Female Participatio nin EU Exporting Activities: Jobs and Wages FEMALE PARTICIPATION IN EU EXPORTING ACTIVITIES: JOBS AND WAGES This analysis sheds new insights on the gender-balance of the employment opportunities supported by extra-EU exports. It shows that in 2017 more than 13 million female workers in the EU had jobs thanks to the exports of goods and services to the rest of the world. However, there is a gender gap when it comes to the employment prospects offered by extra-EU exports: only 38% of the jobs dependent on exports to the world are taken up by women. The analysis suggests that such gender gap is largely due to the concentration of female employment in the less export-oriented sectors, notably in services. Furthermore, the current note makes clear that labour compensation for female workers in exports-supported jobs stagnated in comparison to total employment over the time period considered. Although all exports-supported jobs benefit from a wage premium, there is a gender wage gap of 4 p.p.

  • CIGI - Reshaping Trade through Women's Economic Empowerment: In this series of commentaries, experts in trade, development and women's rights explore opportunities and challenges in realizing the declaration's goal of economic empowerment of women through inclusion in domestic and international trade.

  • ICTSD - The Gender Dimensions of Global Value Chains This paper seeks to integrate gender into the global value chain (GVC) framework, to assess the gender dimensions of integration and economic and social upgrading in GVCs, and to offer GVC-related policy recommendations that support economic and social development.

  • ITC - Unlocking Markets for Women to Trade This publication provides insights to decision makers on women’s participation in trade and the challenges they face - includes data from importers and exporters in 20 developing countries; outlines where the barriers to trade are; shares models of good public and private sector initiatives; and provides recommendations for policymakers to engage women entrepreneurs more fully in the global economy.

Joint Ministerial Declaration on the Advancement of Gender Equality and Women's Economic Empowerment Within Trade (For MC12)

The proponents of this initiative circulated this  joint Ministerial declaration in unrestricted format as WTO document WT/MIN(21)/4.

Signatories

This Declaration is being issued at the request of Afghanistan; Albania; Angola; Argentina; Australia; Barbados; Benin; Botswana; Brazil; Burundi; Cambodia; Canada; Chad; Chile; Colombia; Costa Rica; Côte d’Ivoire; Democratic Republic of the Congo; Dominica; Dominican Republic; Ecuador; El Salvador; Eswatini; European Union; Fiji; Gabon; Gambia; Georgia; Grenada; Guatemala; Guinea; Guinea Bissau; Guyana; Haiti; Honduras; Iceland; Indonesia; Israel; Jamaica; Japan; Kenya; Korea, Republic of; Kyrgyz Republic; Lao People’s Democratic Republic; Lesotho; Liberia; Liechtenstein; Madagascar; Malawi; Malaysia; Maldives; Mali; Mauritius; Mexico; Moldova, Republic of; Mongolia; Montenegro; Myanmar; Namibia; New Zealand; Niger; Nigeria; North Macedonia; Norway; Paraguay; Peru; Philippines; Russian Federation; Rwanda; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Samoa; Senegal; Sierra Leone; Switzerland; the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu; Tajikistan; Togo; Tonga; Trinidad and Tobago; Turkey; Uganda; Ukraine; United Arab Emirates; United Kingdom; Uruguay; Vanuatu; Viet Nam and Zambia.

Preamble

Reaffirming the objectives of the Joint Declaration on Trade and Women’s Economic Empowerment launched in the margins of the 2017 WTO Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires; Acknowledging and supporting the Sustainable Development Goals in the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly Goal 5 on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls, and other instruments supporting gender equality; Acknowledging the progress made in implementing the Buenos Aires Declaration and the work of the Informal Working Group (IWG) on Trade and Gender, as described in document INF/TGE/R/1 and based on four pillars: reviewing analytical work undertaken; experience sharing; considering the concept and scope for a “gender lens”; and contributing to the Aid-for-Trade Work Programme; Recognizing that women can benefit from trade; that they constitute an economic force globally, that increasing their participation in the labour market to the same level as men’s and ensuring full recognition of women’s economic rights will raise Members’ GDP;

and that the WTO can provide a venue to engage on trade and gender to positively impact women’s economic empowerment and to achieve sustainable economic growth;

Recalling that women continue to face disproportionate barriers exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly of unpaid care and domestic work, that prevent them from fully engaging in and benefiting from international trade, and acknowledging that various economic and trade instruments, policies, programmes and agreements could address these barriers; Noting that the IWG on Trade and Gender, assisted by international organizations, initiated its technical work on better understanding the nexus between trade and gender and the efforts of Members to afford opportunities for women workers and entrepreneurs to share their views and how to take these into consideration in developing their national and trade policies;

Decisions

Building on the work done by the IWG on Trade and Gender, and the information gathered and shared by the WTO Secretariat and other international organizations, we, the Ministers and Heads of Delegations, agree to:

1.

Continue to review, develop and improve national and/or regional collection of gender-disaggregated data that is comparable to the extent possible and analysis on trade and gender, to provide the basis for informed gender-responsive policies;

2.

Utilize research initiatives to inform trade policy instruments and programmes to support women’s economic empowerment and increase their participation and leadership in international trade to promote gender equality;

3.

Explore and analyse a gender perspective and women’s economic empowerment issues in the work of the WTO; and

4.

Promote and highlight the collaboration on trade and gender between international and regional organizations, and our respective development and other relevant authorities with the aim of mainstreaming a gender equality perspective into Aid for Trade.

Instructions to Officials

We instruct our officials to continue work on trade and gender and build a two-year work plan that includes concrete action points towards the 13th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC13) and review the work plan after one year of implementation and thereafter inform the General Council periodically on its progress;

Instructions to the Informal Working Group

We instruct the IWG on Trade and Gender to continue to discuss the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on women and explore avenues that build an inclusive recovery and strengthen women’s economic resilience using improved data collection to advance gender equality and equity as appropriate.