Free trade or women`s rights?
January-March 2018
By: Kate Lappin

Governments are starting to recognize that trade agreements may have an adverse impact on women’s human rights. Consequently, the Canada-Chile and Chile-Uruguay free trade agreements have included new gender equality chapters, and it appears that Canada may seek to include a chapter on gender equality in any renegotiated Nafta. The RCEP does not include a proposed gender chapter, nor does it include the largely ineffectual chapters on labor or the environment that are included in the TPP. However, the Canadian gender chapter, like the labor chapter, is unenforceable and of little or no value.

The UN Conference on Trade and Development analyzed the chapters and found these major deficiencies:

(a) Specific gender-related standards that could affect trade under the agreements are not included and, instead, reference is made to the implementation of gender equality commitments included in global conventions.

(b) Milestones or specific goals are not included.

(c) Dispute settlement mechanisms do not apply to the trade and gender chapters.

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