Jakarta (ANTARA) - In a significant move to advance gender equality and inclusivity, APEC policymakers and trade experts gathered in Seattle, the United States, on Thursday to formulate strategies for advancing women’s full economic participation through international trade.

The push for forward-thinking trade policies is aimed at not only uplifting women, but also harnessing the underutilized potential of their economic contribution in the Asia-Pacific region, if not worldwide, according to a release issued by the APEC Committee on Trade and Investment (CTI) and APEC Policy Partnership on Women and the Economy (PPWE), which was received here on Friday.

According to the committee, APEC member economies, international organizations, as well as public and private sectors have echoed the urgent need to address gender disparities in trade and have underscored the potential benefits of a more inclusive approach.

The joint dialogue, led by CTI and PPWE, emphasized the crucial role that gender equity plays in fostering economic growth, greater livelihoods, and sustainable development.

During the dialogue, a series of interventions by APEC officials and experts showcased the barriers women face in international trade and the innovative solutions to remove those barriers.

CTI chair Blake van Velden argued that gender equity is a vital part of the trade agenda, and APEC is the perfect forum to take forward tangible work on inclusive trade.

Meanwhile, PPWE chair Chantelle Stratford said that there is much that APEC members can do collectively.

“Gender equality makes economic sense and is a moral and strategic imperative. We are at an inflection point where gender equality is at risk of regressing," she stated.​​​​​​​

Stratford added that APEC has an opportunity to demonstrate leadership and play a stronger role in addressing the structural and systemic inequalities in trade.

"There is an opportunity for both PPWE and CTI to work together to ensure women are able to seize the benefits of global trade transformations," she said.

“This dialogue is a critical monitoring and accountability mechanism to identify where APEC can strengthen its efforts to advance women’s economic empowerment and improve the lives of women and girls," Stratford continued.

While strides have been made in realizing and harnessing the potential of women in the trade sector, several obstacles remain on the path to achieving true inclusivity and equality.

The joint dialogue highlighted the need for targeted policy interventions, data-driven strategies, and cross-sectoral collaborations for dismantling barriers and empowering women in trade.

“We have an opportunity to make genuine inroads to address the barriers to women’s equality and close the gaps. It’s important that we remember that there is an equality dimension to trade,” Stratford said.

“Increasing women’s participation in trade provides benefits for women and men… and for the economy. Yet women face diverse barriers to participating in trade and do not benefit equally from markets or trade agreements," she further said.

Experts stressed that gender-responsive trade policies not only boost economic growth, but also empower women to become active contributors to their economies. Studies have shown that when women have equal access to trade opportunities, they can play a transformative role in enhancing productivity, fostering innovation, and diversifying export markets.

The dialogue further put forward successful case studies of economies that have implemented gender-inclusive trade policies. These examples underscored the positive outcomes that can be achieved when women's voices are heard, and their needs are integrated into trade-related decision-making processes.

“Trade can open up opportunities, but it can also present barriers to gender equity. For example, there can be barriers and opportunities across trade agreements and arrangements, digitalization, data and research, education and training, access to capital and finance, standards, custom procedures, intellectual property, services to name a few," van Velden explained.

“We need to have voices of women in all parts of the trade process,” he added.

At the conclusion of the dialogue, it was agreed that advancing gender equity in trade is long overdue.

The outcomes of the dialogue are expected to reverberate across the trade landscape in the APEC region, creating a more inclusive and prosperous economy for all. Members of the CTI and PPWE agreed to host annual dialogues to discuss these opportunities further.

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Reporter: Yuni Arisandy Sinaga
Editor: Sri Haryati
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