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Women & the WTO
21 November 1999
Seattle WTO Mobilization against Corporate Globalization
Women, who comprise 70 percent of the world's poorest citizens, should be at the center of economic development efforts so that development projects improve the lives of those most in need of assistance. Yet, when it comes to trade policies, women are faceless, voiceless, and missing from any World Trade Organization (WTO) analysis of trade liberalization. WTO trade policies and rules do not recognize women's unpaid household work and unequal access to resources such as credit, land, and other capital. These economic theories assume that women's labor is "flexible" --- women can be hired when the economy demands it, and dismissed when the economy contracts.
While some women are benefiting from freer trade, many other women have seen their wages decline and their workloads double. Although export-led growth strategies depend upon women's labor in export-processing zones, women's wages in these factories often decline over time. Women must work harder in the factories and at home to meet their families basic needs. The WTO's failure to analyze the gender impacts of "freer" trade has led to rulings that harm the economic and social development of women and their families.
Banana Case --- The WTO sided with the U.S. in ruling against the European Lome Treaty which granted a preference to banana imports from European colonies in the Caribbean. Some 200,000 farmers, the majority women farmers may lose their incomes. A statement from women in the Windward Islands notes that " the loss of this security through a change in market opportunities will leave us without resources to build a future for our families and our countries."
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