News Item

ATEPS 2020: Women in Trade

Industry Advice 20 Jan 2021

"I see women that have amazing business opportunities and high-quality products, but they face many barriers to being able to scale up their businesses and meet the standards required for trade and exports."

Pacific Cooperation Foundation lead Afamasaga Jackie Curry took part in a gender and trade panel at the Auckland Trade and Economic Policy School 2020 forum last month. The forum's overall theme was Advancing Inclusivity and Sustainability through Trade in the 21st Century. Jackie's talanoa was based on her real-world experience with women in trade both in the wider Pacific region and in New Zealand.

Jackie said while there are certainly positive cultural norms that carry over to business and trade, she highlighted the challenges for Pacific women here in New Zealand compared with Pacific women in the islands, and the impacts of recurrent patriarchal trade models. She said fashion and agribusiness are key trade opportunities where women could thrive, however trade barriers presented challenges to their success.

"There have been several fashion shows held across the Pacific and Pacific fashion designers have been taken all over the world, however I've seen the barriers they face in actually growing an industry in terms of breaking into export markets. The fashion industry is a multibillion-dollar industry however our Pacific women still face many barriers in fully participating in that globally.

"Many of our women run niche product agribusinesses in the islands but face trade barriers when trying to export to New Zealand and Australia, which means there is very low representation of women in the export market."

Jackie said there was also a lack of data on women and trade in the Pacific and that needed to change. She said there are solutions though, and investment coupled with essential business support to guide small and medium enterprises is a good place to start.

Fellow panellist Carrie-Stoddart-Smith, Principal Indigenous Trade and Economies, Opinio Native, said she hoped that more countries started to look at feminist trade policy and that the gender-based analysis lens is a great tool for Māori, Pasifika, and broader migrant communities because gender and indigeneity are big parts of New Zealand's trade and policy that need to be addressed.

Stephanie Honey, Associate Director of the New Zealand International Business Forum, highlighted findings from the women in trade report co-published in 2020 by the World Trade Organization and the World Bank. She said that sectors women are heavily represented in, such as agriculture pose big trade barriers and COVID has only exacerbated this. While the report isn't Pacific heavy, it does provide global insights and is available freely here.

The panel was convened by Jennifer Curtain, Director PPI. Watch the full recording of the ATEPS 2020 panel in the above.