Food security! Nearshoring! Digital trade! New Regional Agreements! Climate change!
As international trade continues to evolve, women traders are facing several new challenges and opportunities. How well are they prepared to meet and overcome these emerging scenarios in international trade and pursue the opportunities that they present?
- Food Security: The global pandemic and the war in Ukraine have created severe disruptions to global supply chains, particularly for basic food supplies. Pre-war Ukraine was a major agricultural exporter from which the World Food Programme had procured 40% of the wheat it uses to feed the world’s poor. Food insecurity threatens, opening up opportunities for women, who are responsible for half of the world’s food production. Indeed, in most developing countries women produce between 60 to 80% of the food, states USAID, which also documents the obstacles women farmers face. How can governments and regional and international organizations best support and direct resources to women traders involved in agriculture and agri-business so that they can capitalize on this focused attention on food security?
- Nearshoring: The global pandemic highlighted the frailties of our far-flung supply chains. The severe disruptions to the free and ready flow of the consumer goods and inputs on which our economies rely continue to reverberate. Companies have been exploring options to relocate business operations closer to home base. Governments of developed economies, notably the U.S., are particularly interested in nearshoring the manufacture of strategic inputs that have long been outsourced to China. Reports are that the number of job openings for women in manufacturing have increased, particularly in the tech and automation sectors. As companies struggle to find talent, how can women be supported to improve their skills and be competitive as these opportunities emerge?
- Growing Importance of Digital Trade: The rise of digital technologies is transforming the way in which we do business across borders. In the midst of the global lockdown the companies and entrepreneurs that thrived were the ones that moved to embrace e-commerce. There is no turning back and the advantages of making this shift are real. Without the need for brick-and-mortar stores the barriers to entry are lower, and with a website a local company becomes global. Women need access to reliable Internet, and training and support to enable them to bridge the digital divide. How are women positioned to embrace the new technologies to reach new customers and markets?
- Regional Trade Agreements: Since 2000, the world’s largest trading blocs have been launched – the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). RCEP generates almost one-third of global output and encompasses one-third of the world’s population. AfCFTA is a less mature trading bloc, generating only 3% of world trade, but with 35 members is the world’s largest regional trade agreement. While these are promising developments, the research shows clearly that trade agreements can impact women very differently. For example, women traders are more likely to be concentrated in SMEs, and in developing countries to trade informally. Is there a focus on ensuring that women traders are being trained to understand how to meet and comply with the new rules? Are the mechanisms and protocols being developed to implement the new rules and to facilitate regional trade accessible to SMEs and informal traders?
- Climate Change: As the world comes to term with the threat from climate change governments and businesses are seeking ways to reduce their carbon footprint and become more sustainable. The European Green Deal, for example, aims to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2030, and has introduced new environmental and sustainability standards with which its trade partners will need to begin to comply in 2023. How are women traders preparing for and being supported in doing business in the age of climate change?
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I am a seasoned international trade and customs attorney, and policy adviser for various companies and governments with a demonstrated history of successfully developing and implementing sustainable and dynamic trade programs. I am experienced in creating partnerships with various business-support organizations to drive compliance and growth in the international market.