Vietnam and WTO members promote cooperation and increase women's participation in international trade

Vietnam has concentrated on implementing measures to facilitate and promote women's participation in international business and trade.

Vietnam and a number of member states of the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreed to establish an informal working group on trade and gender, marking the next phase of the initiative launched in 2017 to increase women's participation in trade at an online meeting at the level of ambassador and head of delegation organized on September 23 in Geneva.

Icelandic Ambassador Harald Aspelund, co-chair of the International Gender Champions (IGC) Trade Impact Group introduced the proposal to establish the WTO Informal Working Group. He said the proposal stemmed from consultations with WTO members who expressed their support for following-up on the commitments contained in the Buenos Aires Declaration on Trade and Women's Economic Empowerment.

This Declaration established an initiative removing barriers to women's participation in trade and was supported by 118 WTO Members and observers at the 11th WTO Ministerial Meeting 2017 in Buenos Aires (Argentina). Currently, 127 countries sign the declaration.

The Working Group's objective is to continue to share best practices among WTO Members on increasing women's participation in international trade, examine and clarify the implications of a 'gender lens' in international trade, review how a gender lens can usefully be applied to the work of the WTO, review and discuss gender-related analyzes conducted by the WTO Secretariat and find out how best to support the introduction of the upcoming WTO work program on Trade Aid.

WTO Deputy Director-General Yonov Frederick Agah speaks at the meeting of establishing the informal working group on trade and gender on September 23.

The group will convene its first meeting at the end of this year and outline the schedule of activities as well as topics to be discussed before the 12th Ministerial Conference.

At the meeting, Deputy General Director Yonov Frederick Agah emphasized that “The Buenos Aires Declaration on Trade and the Economic Empowerment of Women has become an important part of the WTO's work to make trade more inclusive", adding that the meeting “marks an important new stage in continuing to promote this work on the basis of transparency, cooperation, and openness."

WTO Deputy Director-General Yonov Frederick Agah indicated some outstanding activities of WTO on implementing the Declaration such as organizing seminars, using the process of Trade Policy Review to share gender-related trade policies of some WTO Members, granting economic empowerment for women.

In addition, the WTO Secretariat has a specialized group on gender and trade, proactively participating in activities to promote this topic; implementing to train trade and gender since 2019 under the training program of the WTO Institute for Training and Technical Cooperation (ITTC) for government officials and will be further developed to integrate new researches on this topic. At the same time, since 2018, WTO has also collected annual data and statistics on gender equality in its scale.

Yonov Frederick Agah said that women have incurred serious impacts regarding trade disruptions due to the Covid-19 pandemic and they play a vital role in rebuilding an open and predictable trade system that helps to boost the economy to develop strongly and comprehensively post-pandemic.

Ambassador Le Thi Tuyet Mai, Head of the Vietnamese Mission speaks at the event

Ambassador Le Thi Tuyet Mai, Head of the Vietnamese Mission to the United Nations, WTO, and other international organizations affirmed that as a member of the Buenos Aires Declaration, Vietnam advocates the establishment of the working group, which is aimed at enhancing women's participation in international trade, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vietnam always attaches great importance to incorporating gender equality into law building and enforcement, adopting inclusive development policies, facilitating women’s participation in business activities and international trade, and encouraging the development of female entrepreneurs, she said, adding that it wants to learn from other countries’ experience in such matters and stands ready to join in the working group’s activities.

Athaliah Molokomme, Ambassador Botswana, co-chair of the International Gender Champions (IGC) Trade Impact Group stressed that there is strong support of WTO members for the formation of the Informal Working Group, specific activities, and schedules in the coming time.

Dorothy Tembo, Executive Director ad interim of the International Trade Centre and Co-Chair of the International Gender Champion’s Trade Impact Group, noted that the next step is how to expand the participation of WTO member states in the Buenos Aires Declaration, which now has 127 member nations.

Contents of the Joint Declaration on Trade and Women’s Economic Empowerment 2017: members acknowledge the importance of incorporating a gender perspective into the promotion of inclusive economic growth, and the key role that gender-responsive policies can play in achieving sustainable socio-economic development:

1. Sharing our respective experiences relating to policies and programs to encourage women’s participation in national and international economies through the World Trade Organization (WTO) information exchanges, as appropriate, and voluntary reporting during the WTO trade policy review process;

2. Sharing best practices for conducting the gender-based analysis of trade policies and for the monitoring of their effects;

3. Sharing methods and procedures for the collection of gender-disaggregated data, the use of indicators, monitoring, and evaluation methodologies, and the analysis of gender-focused statistics related to trade;

4. Working together in the WTO to remove barriers for women’s economic empowerment and increase their participation in trade; and

5. Ensuring that Aid for Trade supports tools and know-how for analyzing, designing, and implementing more gender-responsive trade policies.