USMCA and Gender Equity
By Monica Lugo, Institutional Relations Director
International Women’s Day was commemorated last month. Around this month, several reflections on gender equity were released. Many refer to the widening gender gap and increasing poverty among women.
While this gender gap was evident in 2019, COVID deepened further inequality between men and women. Female employment, for example, fell globally by 4.2% in 2020, compared to 3% for men, as sectors where women typically work more – such as tourism – were ravaged by restrictions implemented to curb the spread of the virus (UNCTAD).
The Mexican Institute for Competitiveness (IMCO) estimated that if women had greater participation in economic activity, the Gross Domestic Product would grow by 15% in 9 years. This will only happen if public policies and strategies are designed with the private sector and society to include women in the productive agenda explicitly.
The inclusion of women in the economy is increasingly important, and this is reflected in the new generation of Free Trade Agreements that Mexico has signed. In the United States, Mexico, and Canada Agreement (USMCA), the inclusion of a gender chapter was proposed that sought to integrate women entrepreneurs into free trade. However, for political reasons, the US rejected the chapter.
Even so, Mexico managed to include gender equity provisions throughout the Agreement that seeks to establish a more even and more inclusive floor for women in the economic sphere. Three chapters, in particular, stand out in the USMCA, where gender provisions are included.
- Chapter 23 on Labor prohibits discrimination in employment and establishes a commitment to promote gender equity in the workplace; it establishes that the Parties will promote practices that integrate and retain women in the labor market, develop the skills of women workers, and even includes provisions related to child care and breastfeeding in the workplace.
- Chapter 25 on Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), for example, establishes the obligation of the Parties to collaborate in activities to promote SMEs of underrepresented groups, including women. It provides a common platform for cooperation and information exchange among the Parties to successfully incorporate women-owned SMEs into regional supply chains and also seeks to exchange and apply best practices among the Parties to improve the access of women-owned SMEs to capital and credit, among others.
- Chapter 26 on Competitiveness creates a trilateral committee in which governments will cooperate to develop public policies to improve the participation of SMEs and businesses owned by underrepresented groups, including women, indigenous peoples, youth, and minorities.
While there is no specific chapter on gender equity, the USMCA has ambitious provisions that recognize the inclusion of women in international trade and seeks their protection, permanence, and inclusion.
Additionally, it is important to note that these provisions are found in chapters that are subject to the Treaty’s Dispute Settlement Mechanism, making compliance mandatory. The inclusion of women in the economy and international trade is still developing, and much remains to be done.
As a result of the pandemic, women have suffered greater declines in labor participation than men. Therefore, it is more necessary than ever to implement economic policies that empower women in our country. This will contribute greatly to a more prosperous and competitive region.
Source: Forbes Mexico