Trade agreements have broad impacts on gender equality, particularly in low-income countries. These impacts can be positive, when trade agreements are designed with gender equality in mind. However, currently, trade rules are often developed without adequate consultation with women or consideration of the gendered impacts. This can worsen the situation for women, reinforcing gender inequality and resulting in unequal social and economic outcomes. It is crucial that the Government takes steps to expand its gender analysis of trade rules and ensure that trade agreements are developed to support gender equality objectives, in line with DFAT’s gender policy.
Reform of Australia’s procedure for negotiating and ratifying trade agreements is necessary to support this process. The current procedure lacks transparency, limits scope for civil society input, including from women’s organisations, and does not give Parliament adequate oversight of trade agreements. By updating the trade agreement procedure, the Government could ensure that trade negotiations are transparent; stakeholder consultation is mandatory; and gender, and broader social, economic, and environmental impacts of trade agreements are identified and addressed. This would ensure that agreements have better outcomes for women and their communities in Australia and in partner countries.