By Bimbola Oyesola

The The World Trade Organization has reiterated that global trade has been and remains a powerful instrument to improve the lives of girls and women around the world, especially those in poor countries.

WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said last week at the 18th Rafael M. Salas Memorial Lecture organized by the United Nations Population Fund in New York that the economic empowerment of women through decent jobs and trade can lead to increased global and economic development. growth.

“Trade creates jobs and market opportunities for women and the businesses they lead and serves as an engine of economy-wide growth in the countries that need it most,” he said. she stated.

She noted, however, that much of this power has not been harnessed, saying much more can still be done to leverage trade to create economic opportunities for women.

The Director-General pointed to a study by the International Monetary Fund estimating that closing the gender gap in the labor markets of many developing countries could increase GDP by 35%.

“The main conclusion is clear: the opportunity costs of gender inequality in the labor market – the economic gains we choose to forego by allowing these inequalities to persist – are immense,” she said. declared. “They are in the same ballpark as the economic damage of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Director-General took note of a recent joint study on trade and gender equality carried out by the WTO and the World Bank, which concluded that trade generates more jobs and job opportunities and best quality for women. Firms that export employ more women, and firms integrated in global trade and global value chains have a higher average share of female labor than those that focus on the domestic market.

However, to truly maximize trade’s contribution to improving the lives of women and girls, “we must face the fact that many poor countries have been excluded from the gains of trade and globalization over the past few decades. “, said the Director-General.

“The current overhaul of supply chain resilience in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine creates a window of opportunity to bring these poor countries from the margins of the global economy to the mainstream dominating,” she said.

She added that expanding this process of “re-globalization” would achieve goals that “de-globalization” cannot.”