In 2022, the Global Trade and Gender Arrangement (GTAGA) welcomed two new participants: Colombia and Peru. The news did not make headlines: the signing ceremony coincided with the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference in June, which attracted most of the trade-focused media attention.
The GTAGA has been heralded by many as “ground-breaking,” a “landmark,” and an innovative and comprehensive initiative. But is it really? What does it add to trade and gender provisions in existing agreements and how far can it go to redress gender inequalities in participating countries?
This article unpacks what GTAGA entails in practice, what officials from participating countries say about its potential, and what responses have emerged from the wider trade and gender community.
GTAGA’S Origin and Objectives
The idea of a GTAGA originated in the Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Inclusive Trade Action Group (ITAG) and came into being in 2020, with Canada, Chile, and New Zealand as its first three participants. The non-binding arrangement, commonly known as GTAGA (pronounced “gee-TA-gah”), aims to promote “mutually supportive trade and gender policies to improve women’s participation in trade and investment and in furtherance of women’s economic empowerment and sustainable development.” It is a stand-alone text, not linked to a specific trade agreement. Current GTAGA participants are Canada, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, New Zealand, and Peru.
Alicia Frohmann, a trade policy specialist who delivers technical assistance on gender and trade in the Latin American region, told IISD that “Canada, Chile, and New Zealand agreed on GTGA in the aftermath of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which did not include gender specific provisions.”
GTAGA is a cooperation-focused initiative, strongly geared toward improving women’s access to trading opportunities. While none of its provisions impose legally binding obligations on its participants, it does provide a framework that they can build on for the future.
In its five pages, the Arrangement acknowledges that “women’s enhanced participation in the labour market, the growth of women-owned enterprises and entrepreneurship, women’s economic autonomy and access to, and ownership of, economic resources contribute to prosperity, competitiveness, and the well-being of society.” GTAGA further notes “the importance of adopting, maintaining, and implementing gender equality laws, regulations, policies, and best practices” and recognizes the need for evidence-based trade interventions to respond to barriers limiting women’s opportunities in the economy.
GTAGA participants undertake to enforce their laws and regulations promoting gender equality and improving women’s access to economic opportunities. They reaffirm their obligations under other international agreements addressing women’s rights or gender equality and recognize that it is “inappropriate” to weaken or reduce the protection provided in domestic gender equality laws with a view to encouraging trade or investment.
GTAGA participants agree to encourage enterprises to incorporate gender equality standards, guidelines, and principles and to support the goal of promoting gender equality in the workplace. The Arrangement notes that temporary special measures relating to licensing and qualification requirements and procedures “aimed at accelerating de facto gender equality” are not to be considered discriminatory by GTAGA participating countries.