The European Commissioner for Trade, Ms. Cecilia Malmström, the WE EMPOWER programme of the European Union, UN Women, and the International Labour Organization co-hosted the roundtable discussion Women and Trade in the Context of CETA in Montreal in July. The event was attended by organizations that support women’s economic empowerment (including OWIT-Toronto, represented by VP Stephanie Dei, current National Coordinator for the WE EMPOWER Programme of the EU, UN Women and ILO), women entrepreneurs actively engaged in exports to the European Union, and several representatives from the public sector committed to advancing women’s participation in international trade.
The discussion focused on the opportunities and challenges to increasing women’s participation in trade between Canada and the European Union in the context of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). Attendees examined three leading gender-based barriers to trade: limited access to capital and investors, limited access to market information and networks, and cultural biases and gender-based discrimination.
Commissioner Malmström pointed out that in September 2018, CETA’s first Joint Committee adopted a recommendation seeking to increase women’s access to and benefit from the opportunities created by CETA. The EU and Canada are now implementing it. In April they jointly organized a workshop in Brussels where businesswomen, civil society, public sector and international organizations, including OWIT-Toronto, shared experiences on integrating the gender dimension in trade policy. The European Commission also recently launched a study on Women in Trade. Carried out by the International Trade Centre, it will fill an important knowledge gap on the participation of women in extra-EU trade and barriers they face.
The Honourable Jim Carr, Canadian Minister of International Trade Diversification, highlighted Canada’s strong commitment to supporting trade opportunities for women so that they can grow and scale their businesses to take advantage of the benefits of CETA and other trade agreements. He mentioned that Canada is increasing the number of trade commissioners in Europe as part of the government’s trade diversification strategy and commitment to serve Canadian firms in key overseas markets. Minister Carr also emphasized the important contribution women make to sustainable economic growth through trade.
Participants identified recommendations for addressing some barriers to trade faced by women entrepreneurs. They expressed the need for more women-only trade missions, and for the inclusion of women in standard missions. They also discussed the importance of continuing to exchange experiences and best practices, and to highlight success stories through identifying role models and storytelling. Another interesting recommendation was to consider stepping away from the focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) as the current focus may keep women who are excelling in other sectors out of the newly-created wealth opportunities. The importance of engagement with immigrants and Diaspora population who have existing networks was brought up as a way to access new markets.
A summary of the discussion can be found here.
More Information about the Trade for Her Conference in the Brussels can be found here.