WASHINGTON, DC (June 17, 2020) – The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) applauds the introduction of the Women’s Economic Empowerment in Trade Act of 2020 in the U.S. Senate today. The bill, introduced by Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), would for the first time include the advancement of gender equality as a factor in U.S. trade policy.
“The improvements put forward in this legislation to the Generalized System of Preferences (GPS) are long overdue,” said Senator Casey. “When it comes to upholding the rights of workers and the rights of women, the United States should lead the way. U.S. trade laws must align with the central objectives of supporting women’s full economic participation, globally. The Women’s Economic Empowerment in Trade Act will ensure the rights of women and measures on non-discrimination, and violence and harassment in the world of work, are incorporated as required standards for counties to receive trade preferences under GSP.”
According to the findings of the World Bank’s 2020 Women Business and the Law report, only eight countries out of 190 treat men and women equally under the law. This legislation would, for the first time, utilize U.S. trade policy as a tool to encourage more countries to join their ranks, awarding preference to those countries who repeal discriminatory laws and take steps to promote women’s rights in national legal frameworks.
The bill would expand criteria for gender equality as a component of the GSP of the Trade Act of 1974. It would also update the Act to ensure that gross violations of human rights would make a nation ineligible for trade preferences – resolving an oversight long overdue.
“In a world where it will take about 100 years to achieve gender equality,” says ICRW Policy and Advocacy Manager Aria Grabowski, “it is critical that the United States use all of its foreign policy tools, including trade, to ensure that systems are more inclusive. With the bill introduced today by Senators Casey and Cortez Masto, trade policy took a positive step forward to help speed up that timeline. We applaud their leadership to ensure that U.S. trade policy helps to promote an ideal that is woven into our founding documents: that all people, everywhere, are created equal.”
ICRW encourages the Senate to pass this bill and the House of Representatives to take it up in short order, so that women’s rights can at last be recognized as human rights in U.S. trade policy, which evidence has shown advances a more equitable and prosperous world.