Gender Equality Provisions in Trade and Investment Agreements: Are They Widening the Negotiation Capacity Gap?

Mexico - 1 February 2024

Trade topics: Gender and Trade

In the recent years, there has been an upsurge in the number of countries that are mainstreaming gender equality concerns in their trade and investment agreements. These recent developments challenge the long-standing assumption that trade, investment, and gender equality are not related. They also show that gender mainstreaming in trade and investment agreements is here to stay. However, very few countries – mostly developed countries – have led this mainstreaming approach and have made efforts to incentivize other countries to negotiate gender-responsive trade and investment agreements. The majority of developing countries are yet to take their first steps in negotiating such policy instruments with a gender lens, and their hesitation can be grounded in various reasons including fears of protectionism, lack of data, paucity of understanding and expertise, and, more broadly, constraints relating to their negotiation capacity. Moreover, the inclusion of gender-related concerns in the negotiation of such agreements has deepened and widened the negotiation capacity gap between developed and developing countries. In this article, the authors attempt to assess this widening negotiation capacity gap with the help of empirical research, and how this capacity gap can lead to disproportionate and negative repercussions for developing countries more than developed countries.