EU trade agreements and policy should help promote gender equality, say MEPs 

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  • Only 20% of current EU trade agreements mention women’s rights
  • All future EU trade agreements must include a dedicated gender chapter
  • Measures to be taken to improve working conditions for women in export-oriented industries

MEPs call for the inclusion of a specific gender chapter in all future EU trade and investment agreements, in a report adopted in Plenary on Tuesday.

According to a review of current EU trade deals, only 1 in 5 of these agreements mention women’s rights, and only 40% include references that aim to promote gender equality.


In a report adopted in Plenary on Tuesday by 512 votes in favour, 107 against, and 68 abstentions, MEPs call on the EU Commission and the Council to support the inclusion of a specific gender chapter in all future EU trade agreements. They also want all future trade deals to promote international commitments on women’s rights, gender equality, gender mainstreaming and the empowerment of women, based on international standards such as the UN’s Beijing Platform for Action and the Sustainable Development Goals


MEPs also emphasise that trade policy should be used to improve the living and working conditions of women, on equal terms with men, notably by supporting the reduction of gender pay gaps by creating better quality jobs for women.


Sector-specific measures needed


MEPs call for binding and enforceable measures to combat exploitation and improve working and living conditions for women in export-oriented industries (such as the garment and textile manufacturing), as they tend to be employed in more low-wage and low-status jobs than men.


They also stress that particular efforts must be made to improve the positive impact of trade on women in the agricultural sector, where they have been identified as particularly vulnerable, but with clear potential for empowerment.


Need to collect more data


Collecting more data on the impact of trade on gender equality would make it possible to create a methodology with clear and measurable indicators, improve analysis and define objectives to ensure that women and men benefit equally from trade, adds the text. MEPs thus encourage the Commission to cooperate closely with relevant organisations and national statistics offices to improve the collection of such impact-assessment data.



Co-rapporteur Malin Björk (GUE/NGL, SE) said: ‘‘I am very happy and proud that we managed to mobilise a progressive majority in the Parliament to send this clear and strong message to the Commission that gender equality needs to be an integral part of the EU’s trade policy. I’m especially proud that so many backed our demand that all EU trade agreements should include a specific chapter on gender equality and women’s rights. This shows that the Parliament wants more than nice words about equality - we want some real action!”

Co-rapporteur Eleonora Forenza (GUE/NGL, IT) said during the debate on Monday: ‘‘EU needs to promote and guarantee gender equality in its trade policies, which cannot be based on competition and profit only. We really hope that this report will have an impact on the drafting of future trade policies and that it will contribute to greater justice for women and girls.’’