India on Tuesday voted against a declaration of the World Trade Organisation that supported gender equality in trade.
At the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires in Argentina, 119 of the 164 members of the agency backed a non-binding declaration that sought women’s economic empowerment by speedily removing barriers to trade.
The declaration provides a framework for members of the trade body to adopt “gender-responsive” trade policies, now that the link between promoting women’s participation in economic activities and improved economic performance has been proved, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, or UNCTAD, said.
India, however, voted against the decision, saying that while it supports gender equality, gender is not a trade-related subject, The Hindu reported. Developed countries, Indian officials argued, could use their high standards of gender equity to curb exports from the developing world. They said gender-related concerns should be discussed at appropriate fora, and that this precedent would bring in other non-trade subjects, such as labour and environment standards, into the WTO’s purview.
An alliance of more than 160 women’s rights and allied organisations criticised the declaration. They had called on member nations not to adopt it as they said the declaration failed to “address the adverse impact of WTO rules on women and instead appears to be designed to mask the failures of the WTO and its role in deepening inequality and exploitation”.