Topic of the Day – Buenos Aires Declaration on Women and Trade

UPSC Exam Preparation: Topic of the Day – Buenos Aires Declaration on Women and Trade 

Buenos Aires Women and Trade Declaration is a non-binding declaration that seeks women’s economic empowerment by expeditiously removing barriers to trade. The declaration was spearheaded by the governments of Sierra Leone and Iceland and the International Trade Centre. It is the result of the efforts made by the Trade Impact Group of the International Gender Champions.  The International Gender Champions is a leadership network bringing female and male decision-makers together with the goal of breaking down gender barriers.

For the first time in the history of the WTO, a collective initiative has been endorsed by the WTO members and observers for increasing the participation of women in trade. With the view of helping women reach their full potential in the world economy, 118 WTO members and observers agreed to support the Buenos Aires Declaration on Women and Trade, which seeks to remove barriers to, and foster, women’s economic empowerment. Nearly three-fourths of the 164-member World Trade Organisation (WTO) have supported a declaration seeking women’s economic empowerment.


Current Situation:

  • Worldwide, many women stand on the sidelines of the economy. Despite the women population accounting for about half of the global population, only 37% of gross domestic product (GDP) is contributed by women.
  • Women run only about a third of small and medium-sized enterprises.   
  • In some developing countries, female business ownership can dip as low as 3-6%.
  • An International Trade Centre survey in 20 countries found that just one in five exporting companies is owned by women.
  • In more than 155 countries, there is at least one law impeding economic opportunities for women.
  • The pace of filling in the gender gap is so slow that it could take about 170 years to reach a state of equality. Not a single country has managed to close the gender gap on economic participation and opportunity.
  • It is also evident that the international trade and trade agreements affect women and men differently.


Significance of the declaration:

  • Actions outlined in the Declaration will ultimately boost economic growth worldwide and provide more and better-paid jobs for women.
  • These actions will also contribute to UN Global Development Goals, including the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) – 5 on achieving gender equality through the empowerment of women and girls.



India’s Stand

India was among the minority group that decided not to endorse the move saying while it stoutly supports gender equality, it cannot concur with the view that gender is a trade-related issue. The reason it stated for its decision is that it could lead to advanced countries using their high standards in gender-related policies to not only curb exports from the developing world but also indirectly restrict developing countries from incentivising their women citizens as part of measures to address developmental challenges. India was also of the view that WTO which is purely a trade-related body is not an appropriate forum for gender-related discussions and encouraging this move could set a precedent to bring in other non-trade issues such as labour and environment standards into the WTO’s ambit.

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