Gender sensitive trade policy

Date Posted: Tuesday 17th September 2019

September 2019


In a modern economy where “90 per cent of everything”[1] that we use and consume has been internationally traded, the effects of domestic trade policies and international trade agreements are felt by everyone in society but can negatively effect groups with a weaker economic position, including women and BME groups.

This briefing, written for the Women’s Budget Group by Adrienne Roberts and Silke Trommer, University of Manchester and, Erin Hannah, King’s University College analyses how gender equality interacts with international trade and investment agreements. It makes recommendations for how the UK government can prioritise gender equality in post-Brexit negotiations.

Key points:

  • The UK Government has committed to formulating a post-Brexit trade policy that will ‘uphold gender equality’. This briefing sets out some of the ways in which this commitment can be made a reality.
  • Trade policy affects people in their multiple roles as consumers, producers, workers, users of public services, and providers of unpaid care work. The impacts of trade policy are gendered as a result of the different position of women and men in these areas of activity.
  • Changing trade policy can have both positive and negative impacts. The negative impacts are felt most acutely by women and other vulnerable populations.
  • Gender chapters in Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) have the potential to mitigate some negative effects of trade policy change, but existing chapters are limited, in part, because they contain few legally binding commitments, are rarely legally enforceable and do not produce legal effects across the entire agreement.
  • Much of the focus of existing gender-sensitive trade initiatives is on supporting women’s entrepreneurship, particularly in the Global South, through training and skills transfer. Empowering women through entrepreneurship requires a consideration of the working conditions and domestic obligations of entrepreneurs, ensuring that this is not conflated with unpaid and precarious work that increase the double burden on women.
  • Providing effective gender-based impact assessment and monitoring is key to ensuring that trade policy, including international trade agreements, produce no gendered harm and that unintended negative consequences can be remedied.
  • Inclusive policies require inclusive policymaking. Involving women’s groups, civil society organisations and stakeholders in the formulation, implementation and monitoring of trade policy will help to provide policymakers the information required to make gender-sensitive policy choices.

You can download and read the full briefing here.

[1] George, Rose (2013) 90 Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in Your Car, and Food on Your Plate, New York: Henry Holt.

Briefing from the UK Women’s Budget Group written by Adrienne Roberts and Silke Trommer, University of Manchester and, Erin Hannah, King’s University College.