New WTO working group established to deepen trade and gender discussions

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A group of WTO members agreed to establish an Informal Working Group on Trade and Gender on 23 September, marking the next phase of an initiative kickstarted in 2017 to increase the participation of women in trade. The online meeting to launch the new WTO working group was held at the invitation of Iceland and Botswana.


Iceland Ambassador Harald Aspelund, co-chair of the International Gender Champions (IGC) Trade Impact Group, introduced the proposal  to establish the WTO Informal Working Group. This proposal, he said, stemmed from consultations with WTO members who expressed support for following-up on the commitments contained in the Buenos Aires Declaration on Trade and Women’s Economic Empowerment. The declaration established an initiative to remove barriers to women’s participation in trade and was supported by 118 WTO members and observers at the 11th Ministerial Conference in 2017. It now counts 127 signatories.

The Informal Working Group’s objectives will be to continue to share best practices among members on increasing women’s participation in trade, consider and clarify what a “gender lens” is in the context of international trade and review how a gender lens could usefully be applied to the work of the WTO, review and discuss gender-related analytical work produced by the WTO Secretariat, and explore how best to support the delivery of the WTO Aid for Trade work programme. It will convene for its first meeting in the second half of 2020 and establish a schedule of activities and themes to be discussed in the run up to the 12th Ministerial Conference.

“The Buenos Aires Declaration on Trade and Women’s Economic Empowerment has become a vital part of the WTO’s work to make trade more inclusive,” Deputy Director-General Yonov Frederick Agah said at the meeting. “Today marks an important new phase in moving this work forward on a continued transparent, collaborative and open basis.” Read his full remarks here.

Botswana Ambassador Athaliah Molokomme, likewise a co-chair of the IGC Trade Impact Group, summed up members’ interventions at the meeting, saying that she found there to be strong support for the formation of an Informal Working Group and that concrete activities and timelines are needed next.

Dorothy Tembo, executive director ad interim of the International Trade Centre and co-chair of the IGC Trade Impact Group, further noted that work must continue to expand the group beyond the 127 current supporters.

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