WIDE+ Gender and Trade WG expressed disappointment in trade commissioner Malmström with her final gender and trade initiative

WIDE+ in collaboration with other networks and NGOs has sent a critical letter to commissioner Malmström, concerning the conference organised by DG Trade on 30 September 2019: ”Trade for Her: Empowering Women through International Trade”.

You can download the letter here: letter to her for trade conference commissioner Malmstrom

The conference will be her last gender and trade initiative before her departure as commissioner and is disappointingly very narrow in its focus. The trade commissioner hasn’t demonstrated during her tenure any honest motivation to have EU trade policy protect the rights of women in Europe and elsewhere. This is proven by the conference narrow focus on promoting female entrepreneurship as the only suggested concrete way forward to empower women in trade, which is a ‘pink herring’.  DG trade with this conference again chooses to ignore many years of research and case study documentation into the negative and harmful effects on gender equality and people’s rights by current EU’s trade policy that is driven to please the interest of big European companies.

trade_for_herThe conference programme offers hardly any opportunity to listen to the voice of women affected by international trade and to identify structural changes required to make international trade work for all women, since women are not a homogeneous group. The current programme provides most space to actors benefiting from or supporting the current EU trade policy, without including any speaker from a feminist network or association, and excluding any speaker from the European Parliament in the panel sessions.

In the letter we set out what a gender-just trade policy should look like and where the EU is currently lacking. The conference aims to discuss how to achieve greater involvement of women in international trade, in the EU and beyond. We question the assumption behind this objective. First, women are already deeply embedded in international trade, but are involved in unequal terms. Therefore, a key point that the conference ought to prioritise is how to ensure trade is gender just. This means that trade agreements must guarantee that the rights of all women working in or providing services and/or goods to global value chains are upheld. While EU trade policy may have benefitted some women entrepreneurs, it has yet to take into consideration the needs and realities of most women in the Global South that provide huge contributions to their economies through unpaid work in addition to all the other forms of labour and services they provide. These women have often been negatively impacted by trade and investment deals and yet have not been meaningfully consulted or had negative impacts redressed.


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