“Gender equality makes economic sense and is a moral and strategic imperative,” says PPWE chair Chantelle Stratford


APEC’s Committee on Trade and Investment (CTI) meets in Detroit, Michigan | Photo via APEC

NEW YORK – APEC member economies, led by the APEC Committee on Trade and Investment (CTI) and APEC Policy Partnership for Women and the Economy (PPWE), met in Seattle, WA, to consider and devise strategies for advancing women’s full economic participation through international trade. The push for forward-thinking trade policies aims to uplift women and harness the underutilized potential of their economic contributions in the Asia-Pacific region, if not worldwide.

Together, they emphasized the crucial role that gender equity plays in fostering economic growth, more significant livelihoods, and sustainable development. A series of interventions by APEC officials and experts showcased the barriers women face in international trade and the innovative solutions to remove those barriers.

“Gender equity is a vital part of the trade agenda. APEC is the perfect forum to take forward tangible work on inclusive trade,” said CTI Chair Blake van Velden as he welcomed delegates to the dialogue.

Chantelle Stratford, PPWE chair, said there is so much that can be done collectively and that “gender equality makes economic sense and is a moral and strategic imperative.” She also said: “We are at an inflection point where gender equality is at risk of regressing.”

“APEC has an opportunity to demonstrate leadership and play a stronger role in addressing the structural and systemic inequalities in trade,” Stratford continued. “There is an opportunity for both PPWE and CTI to work together to ensure women are able to seize the benefits of global trade transformations.”

“This dialogue is a critical monitoring and accountability mechanism to identify where APEC can strengthen its efforts to advance women’s economic empowerment and improve the lives of women and girls.”

Although strides have been made in realizing and harnessing the potential of women in the trade sector, several obstacles remain on the path toward achieving inclusivity and equality. The joint dialogue highlighted the need for targeted policy interventions, data-driven strategies, and cross-sectoral collaborations to dismantle barriers and empower women in trade.

“Increasing women’s participation in trade provides benefits for women and men… and for the economy. Yet women face diverse barriers to participating in trade and do not benefit equally from markets or trade agreements.”

Experts stressed that gender-responsive trade policies boost economic growth and empower women to become active contributors to their economies. Studies have shown that when women have equal access to trade opportunities, they can play a transformative role in enhancing productivity, fostering innovation, and diversifying export markets.

The dialogue presented successful studies of economies that have implemented gender-inclusive trade policies. These examples underscored the positive outcomes that can be achieved when women’s voices are heard and their needs are integrated into trade-related decision-making processes.

“For example, there can be barriers and opportunities across trade agreements and arrangements, digitalization, data and research, education and training, access to capital and finance, standards, custom procedures, intellectual property, services to name a few.”

“We need to have voices of women in all parts of the trade process,” he concluded.

Members of the CTI and PPWE agreed to host annual dialogues to discuss these opportunities further.

–With Ricky Rillera/PDM

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