How can UK trade policy after Brexit promote women’s rights?

A two-page parliamentary briefing on trade and women’s rights.

Executive summary

The case for ensuring trade policies address gender inequality is becoming increasingly recognised by experts and policy makers. The UK’s trade and investment agreements with developing countries, if carefully designed, have the potential to support women’s social and economic rights, including by helping to create decent work opportunities for women and removing structural barriers preventing women from accessing their full rights. However, poorly designed trade policy can harm women’s rights – especially of those from the poorest and most marginalised communities – by leading to:

  • Jobs with low wages and poor working conditions for women
  • Women’s livelihoods being put at risk
  • The interests of private companies and investors being prioritised over commitments
  • on women’s rights
  • Inadequate provisioning of quality public services and infrastructure, which are vital to redress women’s unpaid care work and tackle violence against women and girls.

As the UK prepares to leave the EU, it has a unique opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to women’s rights and gender equality. By going beyond “do no harm” in any new trade and investment deals with developing countries, the UK can lead global efforts to positively contribute towards the fulfilment of women’s and girls’ human rights.