Call for gender-just trade!

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Letter text:

Dear Parliamentarians,

We the undersigned are writing to express deep disappointment with your decision to vote for the implementing legislation of the Comprehensive Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). The passage of the CPTPP through Parliament has occurred without sufficient scrutiny of the harm it may cause women in signatory countries, and particularly the negative impact it may have on women’s rights and gender equality in low income countries.

We are calling on you to ensure the CPTPP and all future trade deals from this point onward are consistent with the Australian Government’s obligations to uphold women’s rights. As a first step, we call on you to endorse ActionAid’s 10 Principles of Gender Just Trade, which are designed to ensure that trade deals advance gender equality and decent work for all women:

  • Principle 1: Trade policies promote and protect human rights, women’s rights, labour rights and the environment, over and above the rights of investors and free market expansion.
  • Principle 2: Trade policies are democratic, accountable and transparent, and subjected to parliamentary and public scrutiny, including by WROs, trade unions and wider civil society.
  • Principle 3: Trade is approached in a gender-responsive way that recognises the diversity of women and the overlapping systems of oppression that many face.
  • Principle 4: Trade policies are based on the holistic, systematic and regular gathering of gender-disaggregated evidence, based on feminist models and frameworks.
  • Principle 5: Trade policies do not impinge upon the policy space of states to meet their constitutional, national and international obligations to protect, respect and fulfil human rights, including by provisioning quality, gender-responsive public services, infrastructure and social protection.
  • Principle 6: Trade supports the creation of decent work for women and sustainable industrial strategies.
  • Principle 7: Corporations are held to account for rights violations and environmental abuse.
  • Principle 8: Trade is used as a tool to support wider development and human rights goals, and to eliminate inequalities between countries in the Global North and South.
  • Principle 9: International trade and investment safeguards women’s livelihoods, land rights, food sovereignty and the natural environment.
  • Principle 10: Intellectual property rights do not infringe on the right to health and food sovereignty.

The CPTPP deal poses a huge threat to women’s economic justice in the region, and without regulation and monitoring is likely to undermine the Government’s commitments to promoting gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.

Deals such as the CPTPP have the potential to drive down women’s wages and undermine women’s rights at work in industries like the garment sector, which is made up of nearly 80% women. It would encourage the privatisation of services like health and education, which are essential for achieving gender equality, and gives corporations the right to sue for damages if governments try to take back control.

The undersigned organisations and members of the Australian community are therefore calling on you to publicly endorse ActionAid’s Principles of Gender Just Trade, and work with your party to adopt the accompanying policy recommendations.

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