Gender equality integral to all future EU trade deals
The EU’s longstanding omission of women’s rights and gender equality from its trade policy could be about to end after a vote in the Strasbourg plenary this afternoon. .
Co-authored by MEPs Malin Björk and Eleonora Forenza, the report was overwhelmingly adopted by MEPs (512 in favour, 107 against and 68 abstentions). It reveals that just 20% of all EU trade agreements includes a reference to women’s rights, and only 60% mention ‘women’ or gender issues in some way.
It also raised concerns that as the EU continues to pursue agreements such as TTIP, CETA and TiSA, not only are trade and services being liberalised, public services which count women as both providers and users are coming under increasing pressure. In turn, women’s economic and social rights are being rolled back, leading to increased gender inequality, social exclusion and precarious working conditions.
Amongst the proposals put forward by Björk and Forenza is a call on all future EU trade and investment agreements to promote and support a specific Gender Chapter, and to adhere to international treaties that recognise gender equality.
Further, measures that combat the exploitation of women and improve their working conditions should be considered when discussing future trade deals, and that public services and health provisions must be exempted from trade negotiations.
Commenting on the vote, Björk 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!” said the Swedish MEP.
Her co-Rapporteur and Italian MEP Eleonora Forenza added:
“At the beginning of this legislature, EU’s trade policy was quite properly defined as 'gender blind'. This Report focuses on a radical change of direction in EU trade policy from a feminist point of view.”
“This Report is another step towards this approach. Women's rights are human fundamental rights and cannot be considered as a non-tariff barrier – as is the case with investor's rights which had more protection than human and women's rights, social justice, labour rights and environmental standards.”
“Our Report calls on binding and effective clauses on women’s rights and gender equality since women’s freedom needs concrete commitments,” she concluded.