Gender Mainstreaming in Free Trade Agreements: A Regional Analysis and Good Practice Examples

Mexico - 27 January 2022

Trade topics: Gender and Trade

COVID-19 has played havoc with the global economy, and with it, international trade. Amidst it all, something else has been happening that we need to take account of, i.e., the increasing gender divide. COVID-19 is magnifying the impact of the pre-existing barriers that women face, with massive loss of jobs and business opportunities, reduced access to education as it goes online, and an increase in household responsibilities and domestic violence against women. So, what policy options are available to minimise this harm? There are two complementary options to mitigate the challenge: a bottom-up and a top-down approach. Using a bottom-up approach, countries can seek to mitigate damage at the national level, through national policies and interventions (and giving space for the articulation of local level demands). A “top-down approach” makes use of international policy levers to incentivise political and economic actors to redress the damage. This study focuses on the latter, “top-down” approach, focussing on international trade policy which effects economic structures and consumer and producer opportunities, incentivises firms to adapt their operations, and opens up funding avenues to build capacity and human capital. We examine how trade agreements can accommodate gender-related concerns and promote a more inclusive approach to trade. The study describes how gender equality related concerns are mainstreamed in existing trade agreements signed by countries in North and South America, the European Union, Africa and Asia Pacific. This regional analysis feeds into ten recommendations to guide gender mainstreaming efforts in future trade negotiations.