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.
Actions outlined in the Declaration will ultimately boost economic growth worldwide and provide more and better paid jobs for women. These actions will also contribute to UN Global Development Goals, including the Sustainable Development Goal to achieve gender equality through the empowerment of women and girls (SDG 5).
Supporting WTO members and observers, have specifically agreed to explore and find ways to best tackle barriers to trade, lack of access to trade financing and sub-optimal participation of women in public procurement markets. Participating members will exchange information about what has worked – and what has not – in their attempts to collect gender-disaggregated economic data and to encourage women’s participation in the economy. Within the WTO context, members will scrutinize their own policies through a gender lens and find ways to work together to increase women’s participation in the world economy. They will also seek to ensure that trade-related development assistance pays better attention to its focus and impact on women. Progress will be reported in 2019.
Currently, many women worldwide stand on the sidelines of the economy. While women comprise about half of the global population, they generate only 37% of gross domestic product (GDP) and run only about a third of small and medium-sized enterprises. In some developing countries, female business ownership can dip as low as 3-6%. An International Trade Centre survey in 20 countries found that just one in five exporting companies is owned by women. In more than 155 countries, there is at least one law impeding economic opportunities for women. No country has managed to close the gender gap on economic participation and opportunity; progress is so slow it would take, at the current rate, 170 years to reach gender equality. It is also apparent that international trade and trade agreements affect women and men differently.
The Buenos Aires Women and Trade Declaration was spearheaded by the governments of Iceland and Sierra Leone, as well as the International Trade Centre. It stemmed from efforts made by the Trade Impact Group of the International Gender Champions, a leadership network that brings female and male decision-makers together to break down gender barriers.
With over 100 Heads of Delegation present, the Chair of the WTO’s 11th Ministerial Conference (MC11), Susana Malcorra and the WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo received the Declaration today on the margins of the Conference. This is the first time members attending a WTO Ministerial Conference have issued a declaration calling for greater inclusion of women in trade.
Gudlaugur Thór Thórdarson, Iceland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade, said: ‘Trade can help advance women’s economic empowerment and is also good for the economy. Therefore focusing on women and trade is not only the right thing to do, it also makes economic sense.’
Arancha González, ITC’s Executive Director, said: ‘Lowering the barriers facing women entrepreneurs, at home and internationally, would bolster growth and make it more socially inclusive. It would mean more and better-paid jobs for women – not least since women-owned firms hire more women, especially at higher levels. And it would go a long way towards realizing Goal 5 of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls.’
Cecilia Malmström, the European Commissioner for Trade, said: ‘For us to truly reap the benefits of trade, women’s independence and entrepreneurship need to take centre-stage in our policies. We need to transform ideas into action.’
Roberto Azevêdo, WTO Director-General said: ‘This joint declaration on Trade and Women’s Economic Empowerment is a very welcome step in promoting women’s economic empowerment and in building the more inclusive trading system we all want to see. I am proud to support this initiative, and to help launch it here in Buenos Aires at the WTO’s 11th Ministerial Conference.’
Ann Linde, Sweden’s Minister for EU Affairs and Trade, said: ‘Getting more women involved in is sound economic policy for all countries, regardless of their level of development. Gender inequality is something none of us can afford.’
Kamina Johnson Smith, Jamaica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, said: ‘Greater participation of women in international trade will generate sustainable jobs boost global growth. I support the Women and Trade Declaration because trade policy is critical in making that possible.’
Heraldo Muñoz, Chile’s Minster of Foreign Affairs, said: ‘Economic empowerment of women is a priority in the negotiation of trade policies and export promotion actions conducted by our government. This is why I support the Declaration on Women and Trade.’
François-Philippe Champagne, Canada’s Minister for International Trade, said: ‘Canada has been a lead in advancing the Declaration on Women and Trade. We encourage countries to champion inclusive, progressive approaches to trade.’
Ambassador Yvette Stevens, Sierra Leone’s Head of Delegation to MC11, said: ‘The structural imbalances, which contribute to an unequal distribution of the benefits from trade must be acknowledged and acted upon.’
Members supporting the Buenos Aires Declaration on Women and Trade: Afghanistan, Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Barbados, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burundi, Cambodia, Canada, Chad, China, Chile, Chinese Taipei, Colombia, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Germany, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Republic of Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lesotho, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Myanmar, Namibia, Netherlands, Nepal, New Zealand, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, Spain, South Sudan, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Tonga, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Viet Nam, Zambia.