Side-event at the Commission on the Status of Women: Making Trade Agreements Work for Rural Women

13 March 2018
13:15-14:30 hrs., Conference Room A, UN Building
New York
, United States of America

UNCTAD and the Asian Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development will host a side-event on "Making Trade Agreements Work for Rural Women" at the 62nd session of the Commission on Status of Women (CSW61)

The event will provide the opportunity to examine the asymmetries and possible negative consequences that gender-blind trade policies can have for women —in particular rural women — and discuss possibilities for an alternative trade model that is just, gender equitable, and accountable to peoples.

Today, there are thousands of bilateral, multilateral and plurilateral trade agreements in force worldwide. In most cases, these agreements have been developed independently from the human rights regime.

While it is important to recall the benefit of trade - for example to help domestic producers in reaching much larger markets, for increasing the efficiency of domestic production, and for being one of the channels of technology transfer, such benefits have to be assessed against their asymmetries and possible negative consequences, in particular for those who risk being "left behind", including rural women.

This is why intergovernmental agencies, including UNCTAD, UN treaty bodies and independent experts, and civil society organizations are working on solutions to make the trade system increasingly aligned with human rights obligations and the with the goals of Agenda 2030.

One emerging solution is adding gender, labour, culture chapters or other progressive elements in FTAs, as done by Canada in the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and in the current Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, and by Canada, Chile and Uruguay in their recent FTAs. Another option is to assess the potential impact of a trade agreement on women before the agreement enters into force.

To yield the best results the two approaches should be combined. Feminist movements demand recognition of the adverse impact FTAs have often had on women, particularly rural women, request transparency in negotiations, and the primacy of human rights.

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