119 of 164 members of World Trade Organisation (WTO) have backed Buenos Aires Declaration on Women and Trade at 11th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC11) held in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Buenos Aires Declaration on Women and Trade is non-binding declaration that sought women’s economic empowerment by speedily removing barriers to their participation in trade. India voted against declaration.
Buenos Aires Declaration on Women and Trade
The declaration provides framework for members of trade body to adopt “gender-responsive” trade policies. Under it, WTO will further identify of barriers that limit women’s participation in trade, financial inclusion as well as access to trade financing. It also calls for enhancement of women entrepreneurs’ participation in public procurement markets, and the inclusion of women-led businesses, in particular MSMEs, in value chains.
The declaration will also lead to inclusion of ‘gender equality’ in services trade negotiations agenda under Domestic Regulation discipline (one of major areas of services negotiations under GATS). Moreover, actions outlined in Declaration will provide more and better paid jobs for women.
India held that it strongly supports gender equality and is very much in favour of promoting gender issues but it cannot concur with view that gender is trade-related issue. WTO is purely trade-related body and not a forum to discuss gender, so gender-related discussions should take place at appropriate fora.
It also held that developed countries have high standard in gender-related policies as compared to developing or least developed countries (LDC). Hence the proposition to link gender and trade agreed then developed nations will curb exports from developing world using ‘gender’ issues as non-trade barrier.
Moreover, it will also indirectly restrict developing countries from incentivising their women citizens as part of measures to address developmental challenges. It will be used same as ‘Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS)’ measures which is being used by developed nations against LDCs and developing countries. It will also set precedent to bring in other non-trade issues such as environment and labour standards into the WTO’s ambit.
The 11th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC11) was held from 10 to 13 December 2017 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The Ministerial Conference is ighest decision-making body of the WTO and meets at least once every two years. The MC11 ended with number of small ministerial decisions, including Ministerial Decision on Fisheries Subsidies, Work Programme on e-commerce, TRIPS non-violation and situation complaints, Work Programme on Small Economies etc. and creation of working party on accession for South Sudan
Overall, the meeting ended in stalemate, with countries divided along industrial and developing lines. For India it was partial success. India’s push to ensure consensus around a ‘permanent solution’ to the public stockholding of food for food security purposes was thwarted by the US.