Trade and gender in free trade agreements: The Canadian approach
Gender equality and the avoidance of discrimination based on gender has been one of the priorities pursued by Canada during trade negotiations in the past, notably through language regarding the elimination of employment discrimination in labour cooperation agreements and labour chapters in free trade agreements (FTAs).
More recently, Canada has sought to mainstream gender considerations throughout its FTAs. As the Office of the Special Advisor on Gender to the United Nations puts it, “[Gender] [m]ainstreaming is not an end in itself but a strategy, an approach, a means to achieve the goal of gender equality. Mainstreaming involves ensuring that gender perspectives and attention to the goal of gender equality are central to all activities,” including activities associated with the development, implementation and monitoring of government policies, programs and projects.
In the context of FTAs, the Government of Canada is currently applying a two-pronged approach to trade and gender by:
1) working to include a standalone chapter on trade and gender.
2) mainstreaming gender by including other gender-related provisions throughout FTAs
Dedicated trade and gender chapters
On June 5, 2017, the Government of Canada broke new ground when the Minister of International Trade signed Canada’s first trade and gender chapter as a part of the modernized Canada-Chile FTA. This new chapter, which builds upon the chapter on gender in the 2016 Chile-Uruguay FTA, is a first in terms of Canadian FTAs and a first for any G20 country.
Since then, Canada has gone on to include a dedicated trade and gender chapter in its modernized Canada-Israel FTA, along with other inclusive trade elements, such as a dedicated article on corporate social responsibility and new chapters on labour, the environment and SMEs.
Going forward, ensuring that FTAs include trade and gender chapters is a priority for the Government of Canada.
Objectives of trade and gender chapters in Canada’s free trade agreements
Existing trade and gender chapters in the modernized Canada-Chile FTA and the modernized Canada-Israel FTA include four key objectives.
1. Reaffirm importance of incorporating a gender perspective into economic and trade issues
2. Reaffirm commitment to international agreements on gender equality and women’s rights
This includes reaffirming our commitment to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which was the first major international agreement addressing the rights of women.
3. Provide a framework for parties to the agreement to undertake cooperation activities on issues related to gender and trade
Central to Canada’s approach to its trade and gender chapters is providing a platform for Canada and its FTA partners to engage in bilateral cooperation activities. These activities are aimed at improving the capacity and conditions for women—including workers, businesswomen and entrepreneurs—to access and fully benefit from the opportunities created by trade and investment. These activities are designed to be as inclusive as possible and include provisions to involve public- and private-sector stakeholders, such as government agencies, businesses and other civil society organizations.
4. Establish a dedicated trade and gender committee and other institutional provisions
The objective of the trade and gender committee, to be composed of officials from each party to the agreement, is to perform functions related to accountability, transparency, advisory, coordination and facilitation. The committee ensures transparency by reporting on its activities and outcomes achieved. The committee also performs an advisory function by reviewing the operation of the chapter and advising the governments on opportunities to further advance gender equality objectives and outcomes throughout the FTA.
Mainstreaming gender by including gender-related provisions throughout a free trade agreement
A dedicated trade and gender chapter is only one of many ways used by Canada in seeking to promote access for women to trade, and to advance gender equality and other gender-related objectives in its FTAs.
Outside of a dedicated chapter, Canada believes there are other opportunities to mainstream gender-responsive elements throughout a trade agreement. These can include:
- a labour chapter with comprehensive, binding and enforceable commitments related to gender; in particular, one where parties are required to promote employment equity and address gender-based discrimination in the workplace and adopt programs and policies that address the gender wage gap and barriers to the full participation of women in the workforce
- cross-border trade in services provisions that prohibit gender-based discrimination related to licencing and professional qualification requirements and procedures
- “right to regulate” provisions that ensure that the wording “gender equality” is included in the illustrative list of areas where parties reaffirm their right to regulate in the public interest; this can be found either in the scope article of the investment chapter or the preamble of the whole agreement
- investment-related gender-responsive proposals, which can include:
- senior management and board of directors: parties may require the nomination of women for the senior management or board of directors of an enterprise
- corporate social responsibility: parties encourage enterprises operating within their territory or subject to their jurisdiction to adhere to an illustrative list of corporate social responsibility practices, including gender equality
- selection of arbitrators for investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) panels: when appointing arbitrators, encourage the parties to promote greater diversity, including by appointing women, to the ISDS panel
- government procurement provisions that allow procuring entities to consider opportunities for small and minority-owned businesses or under-represented groups, including women, when procuring goods or services
- language in the preamble of the agreement that seeks to advance gender equality. For instance, in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, Canada has included a new preamble that reaffirms the importance of promoting, among other things, gender equality
Gender provisions and chapters in Canada’s current FTAs
Canada-Chile Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA)
- Canada-Chile Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA) Trade and Gender Chapter
- Canada-Chile work plan for implementing activities on trade and gender
- First Trade and Gender Committee meeting under the Canada-Chile Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA) Trade and Gender Chapter
- Trade and Gender: The Canada-Chile Story
- Report: 1-year anniversary since the entry into force of the Canada-Chile Trade and Gender Chapter
Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA)
Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)
- Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) Recommendation on Trade and Gender
- Canada-EU work plan for implementing CETA Trade and Gender recommendation
- Report: 1st Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) meeting on Trade and Gender by Videoconference, Ottawa and Brussels, February 20th, 2019
- Report: European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) workshop on trade and gender, April 1, 2019
- Report: 2nd Canada - European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) meeting on Trade and Gender by Videoconference, Ottawa and Brussels, June 14th, 2019.
- Report: 3rd Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) Joint Committee recommendation on Trade and Gender by Videoconference, Ottawa and Brussels, October 24th, 2019
World Trade Organization (WTO)
- World Trade Organization (WTO) - Buenos Aires Declaration on Women and Trade outlines actions to empower women
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