The UK’s Ambassador to the WTO and UN in Geneva, Julian Braithwaite, delivered a statement on women and trade at the event ‘Women’s Economic Empowerment through Trade’ organised by the International Trade Centre and the Organisation for Women in International Trade
Thank you for inviting me to join this panel. I am delighted to be here and am proud that the UK has funded the ITC report we are launching today.
Increased trade can be a tremendous force for providing new opportunities for women. A 2016 report by the International Trade Centre has found that women-owned businesses that export are on average more than 3.5 times more productive than those that do not. However, improving women’s access to the benefits of trade remains a global challenge.
At the London-hosted Commonwealth Summit in 2018, the UK committed to intending ‘to establish a fully gender-responsive trade policy’. Two years on, I think it is remarkable how international expertise is growing, and I would like to thank the ITC for their role in important agenda.
Today I wanted to both reflect on the UK’s progress on trade and gender equality, and draw upon the four key challenges that today’s ITC report sets out for mainstreaming gender in Free Trade Agreements: Greater awareness, expertise, gender-disaggregated data, and political will.
Firstly, there is a need to increase awareness by looking beyond the visible. If we agree that trade is not gender neutral, or that trade outcomes vary by gender, then we also must acknowledge that many of the barriers for women in trade may be hidden.
This report invites us to consider whether there is more to be done in trade agreements to address those barriers to trade faced by all but which may be disproportionately experienced by women. One important example is considering women-owned SMEs.
Secondly, our stakeholders have made clear that much of the underpinning expertise comes from outside of Government too.
The UK recognises the importance of seeking the meaningful inclusion of women’s voices throughout our policy development, and that we need more women in particular to participate in conversations around trade.
Thirdly, the importance of gender-disaggregated data. As the report makes clear ‘the impact of gender mainstreaming on women and trade will only become visible with the passage of time.’ To know if we’re achieving our goals, we must be able to monitor them.
Just yesterday the ITC Executive Director Dorothy Tembo and the UK Minister for Africa launched the SheTrades Outlook tool at the UN High Level Political Forum.
Part of the UK’s Aid for Trade portfolio, this UK-funded data tool will show us best practices on trade and gender policies around the world, providing a crucial step forward in identifying, understanding and addressing the barriers for women in international trade.
Turning finally to political will. The UK Government made clear in their manifesto that future trade agreements will be not only be free but fair, and this includes seeking provisions that advance women’s economic empowerment. This is also set out in our recently published FTA negotiation objectives for the US, Australia and New Zealand.
But political will is not just about individual countries, it is also about the international trade community. That’s why commitments such as the Joint Declaration on Trade and Women’s Economic Empowerment are so important.
Looking forward to the next phase of the WTO’s work, the UK strongly supports the creation of an Informal Working Group on Women’s Economic Empowerment. We welcome early proposals that this group should consider gender equality across WTO activities, which will ensure that gender equality in trade is no longer seen as a siloed issue.
The UK is at the start of a journey to make our independent trade policy gender-responsive. This report and these events are a huge step in the right direction as we look to enable women to benefit equitably from the opportunities of trade, whether as workers, business-owners or entrepreneurs.
As we forge our trade policy, we will use our role as an independent, outward-looking, free-trading nation to champion trade policies which advance women’s economic empowerment.
I look forward the discussions today and progressing this important cause together.