Workshop 4:  Transforming EU’s gender blind trade policies

How to bring a feminist perspective into EU’s gender blind trade policies


In this workshop moderatored by Gea Meijers, member of WIDE+ trade and gender Working Group, other members of the WIDE+ trade and gender Working Group presented the results of our collective analysis and presented our recommendations.

Edmé Dominguez, Gothenburg University, reflected on women’s very precarious working conditions and lack of food security as a result from Free Trade Agreements. She reflected on her and other people’s research on the effects of NAFTA (the North American Trade Agreement, between US, Canada and Mexico).

Georgios Altintzis, UTIC, spoke on the effects of trade liberalization in services and public goods that is part of multilateral trade negotiations and something the EU promotes, on women,for example in the shape of increase in unpaid care time (like fetching water at a larger distance from homes, because of water privatization).

Carina Bos, WO=MEN, reflected on her experiences at CSO representative in the Netherlands taking part in government initated negotiations in sectors to agree on voluntary corporate social responsibility frameworks between business, CSOs and government.

The discussion focused on the role trade unions can play in promoting women’s rights in trade, the living and working conditions from women working in export: is there also empowerment?, the relations between trade negotiations and female migration, among others.
The joint position of the Trade and Gender Working Group.

The Working Group concluded that European Union trade policy lacks gender awareness resulting in a lack of concrete policy measures to address gender discrimination. More importantly, the neo-liberal trade policy that the EU promotes harms sustainable development, is based on the exploitation of women, and makes the protection of women’s human rights more difficult.

EU trade policy narrows economy policy to increasing GDP and exports; it is grounded in an economic theory that makes the domain of unpaid care work and reproduction invisible. WIDE+ calls for a complete transformation of the current EU trade policy: we need an alternative.

The WIDE+ Trade and Gender Working Group is a group of trade and gender experts that set out to reflect and advocacy for an EU trade policy that does not support the economic discrimination of women. They have formulated the following key recommendations that highlight the key entry points towards a new trade policy. The Trade and Gender Working Group would like to reflect on these recommendations in order to enhance its positioning and strategizing.

Recommendation 1

Movements, communities and associations that represent women’s rights as workers, entrepreneurs or consumers should be part of public discussions during trade negotiations taking place on multi- and bilateral level and the negotiations should be transparent.

Civil Society should be also consulted in Sustainable Impact Assessments (SIAs) that should be concluded before the Council gives the Commission a mandate to negotiate, so as to inform both the mandate and the negotiations, and include a more representative and inclusive gender lens.

Recommendation 2

Trade agreements should include binding and enforceable chapters on labour standards, human rights and environmental protection in trade agreements with an appropriate body appointed or an explicit mechanism to monitor compliance. The CEDAW resolutions and the ILO standards, including Convention No. 189 on Domestic Workers and No. 156 on Workers with Family Responsibilities, need to be part of any human rights dispute settlement and monitoring.

Recommendation 3

Trade and development policies should be reformed in order to ensure food sovereignty, not only food security, instead of undermining them.

Recommendation 4

Stop further liberalisation of public services and public procurement. Make the EC trade strategy and EU’s position on public services consistent so that the latter is given priority over the former. This entails:

-EU Trade agreements should encourage and facilitate states to regulate and provide for social protection, and by no means promote further liberalization and privatization of public services.

-EU and its Member States should severely limit the commitments undertaken on mode 4 in TiSA only to cover high-skilled professions and service providers, and do not list in the schedules of commitments categories of workers that must be protected under national labour law, for instance services provided by midwives, nurses and para-medical personnel.

Recommendation 5

Adopt binding regulations on a multilateral, regional, bilateral and national level to regulate Transnational Companies (TNCs) and establish a mandatory requirement for gender sensitive due diligence for all companies, and encourage policy practices create responsible supply chain partnerships.

Recommendation 6

Allocate specific budget lines in “Aid for Trade” as part of development aid to women’s empowerment.