Gendering SPS and TBT Rules for Development

Organised by
1 November 2018
Standards are the gatekeepers to participation in international trade, and in this role can replicate – or challenge – gender discrimination in countries around the world.
While there is preliminary evidence that Sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards (SPS) and technical barriers to trade (TBT) can be particularly challenging for women who own small businesses or who work towards compliance, relatively little is known about the standards-gender interface. On the one hand, the adoption of standards can transform value chains in a way that excludes women workers, but on the other it can spur ongoing changes to competitiveness that could increase the returns to women-led businesses. Technical assistance can and has worked with women who are key actors in improving quality for standards compliance, thereby promoting gender equity under Sustainable Development Goal 5 as well as inclusive economic transformation more broadly. Discussions have also inquired into the role and importance of the participation of women in standard setting. Trade policy-making at the WTO SPS and TBT committee can consider gender in the design of new measures, as well as their implementation, to ensure the measures attain their safety and technical objectives along with their sustainable development potential. 
This session explored opportunities to design and implement standards that support gender equity. Discussions explored the differentiated impact of standards on women and men, capacity building activities, women’s participation in standard setting, and opportunities in the SPS and TBT committees, and in technical assistance, to design and implement standards in a gender-sensitive way.
Main takeaways
• Standards can have gender-specific impacts because women producers lack the skills, resources and scale to comply and since standards may be designed for male end-users of products;
• Women’s limited participation in standard-setting, and the lack of comments relating to gender in the WTO SPS and TBT committees, reflects the fact that gender inequality is deeply rooted in societies around the world;
• There are opportunities for standard-setting bodies to be part of the solution to gender-based discrimination, including by helping firms, governments, and multilateral organizations measure gender and mandate activities to consider gender impacts;
• While more research into the gendered impacts of standards is welcome, the time is ripe for gender champions to lead the mainstreaming of gender considerations in SPS and TBT policymaking, including by building on best practice in other forums and issue-areas.

Nicola Bauman is a Policy Officer at the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in their Agriculture and Food Trade Branch. She previously worked at the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, primarily on international trade issues and SPS capacity building in the Asia-Pacific.

Spencer Henson is a Professor in the Department of Food, Agricultural and Resources Economics at the University of Guelph, Canada and Director of the Guelph Institute of Development Studies (GIDS).  Professor Henson is recognised internationally for his research on the economics of food safety and quality.  He has worked extensively on the impacts of sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures on low and middle-income countries.  His research in this area has been undertaken in collaboration with the WTO, OECD, World Bank, FAO, IICA and STDF, amongst others.

Secretary of the Working Party on Regulatory Cooperation and Standardization Policies (W.P.6) and Head of the Regulatory Cooperation Unit, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. Recent work has focused on how risk management tools are used in regulatory action, in particular, as the basis for designing regulatory systems and in regulatory approximation, and how standardization can contribute to sustainable development and to resilience to natural and man-made disasters. Research interests include the deep aspects of economic integration, in particular overcoming technical barriers to trade through regulatory cooperation and approximation of technical regulations. Has published extensively, both in peer-reviewed paper and as a contributing author to flagship UN publications. Author of the book Risk Management in Regulatory Frameworks and a paper on “Standards and normative mechanisms for disaster risk reduction.”

Sarah Mohan is a Development Economist at ICTSD. She has six years of work experience on value chains, standards, development and trade, including at UNCTAD, the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), and Seeds of Survival-USC Canada. She has worked as a consultant for the FAO, North South Institute, ICTSD, and Consumers International. Sarah has published numerous peer-reviewed articles, policy papers, and book chapters, and has conducted extensive fieldwork in the tea sector. She holds a PhD in Economics from Carleton University in Canada and a Masters’ Degree in Development Economics from the University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies. Sarah is a Canadian national.


This event is organised with the support of THE AUSTRALIAN DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE (DFAT).