Members of the Informal Working Group expressed their support for the proposal of the co-chairs — Botswana, El Salvador and Iceland — to organise dedicated discussions on the four pillars of the work plan: working on gender-responsive trade policy and information sharing, applying a gender lens to the work of the WTO, reviewing gender-related research and analytical work and improving data collection in trade, and exploring how best to support the delivery of the WTO Aid for Trade work programme.

These efforts build on outcomes from the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) in June 2022, where ministers multilaterally recognized in the Outcome Document the links between women's economic empowerment and economic growth, noting the work of the WTO and other organizations in this area. The three co-chairs also issued at MC12 a separate statement highlighting the achievements of WTO members participating in this initiative and reaffirming their commitment to advancing gender equality in trade.

The dedicated discussions will be organised under the leadership of interested members and in close cooperation with the co-chairs. Several members already expressed their interest in specific pillars. For instance, Canada proposed to lead the discussion on data collection under the pillar of analytical work while Australia voiced interest in Aid for Trade. The European Union, which is currently working on a gender lens framework with the International Trade Centre (ITC), will present findings in various workshops. Plenary meetings will then be held for members to consider reports on the thematic discussions. These will be an opportunity to ensure the process's transparency, and to hear from gender experts from the WTO and other international organisations.

Members also heard from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) about applying a gender lens on trade. The ECLAC presentation highlighted how inclusive trade policy could contribute to reducing gender gaps in trade. Data on women, impact assessment, gender mainstreaming in trade agreements, trade disciplines and trade facilitation, and support for women traders are requirements needed to apply a gender lens to trade policy, according to ECLAC.

Members also expressed support for the WTO Secretariat's work on the WTO Database on Gender Provisions in Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs), noting the platform's usefulness for formulating gender provisions in future trade agreements. The Database maps and provides information on 331 gender provisions included in 109 RTAs. The Secretariat presented a report summarising the results of the Database (INF/TGE/COM/4), which provides a global and regional overview of the type of gender issues addressed in RTAs, the implementation instruments agreed and the enforcement mechanisms applicable to gender provisions as provided by RTAs. The database and the summary document will be updated regularly to ensure ongoing access to information.

The Secretariat also presented the current trends in inclusive policy-making and how gender considerations are integrated into the Aid for Trade programmes. Governments have included women's economic empowerment as a priority in national trade and investment strategies and have supported women entrepreneurs and workers, especially in agriculture, the Secretariat noted. In addition, financial incentives, public government schemes and training programmes have also been developed to promote women's participation in trade. Aid for Trade programmes also aim to build women's capacity to export, integrate e-commerce markets and access finance.

The next meeting of the Informal Working Group will be on 5 October, when the Co-Chairs of the Group will organise a workshop on trade, gender and the private sector, entitled “The Business Case of Trade and Gender”.




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