June 10, 2021

Cortez Masto, Colleagues’ Legislation Includes Measures to Promote Human Rights Economic Empowerment of Women in Trade Policy

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) announced today that key provisions from their legislation, the Women’s Economic Employment in Trade Act, were added in the United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021, which advanced in the Senate this week. The measures included from the senators’ bill promote human rights and the economic empowerment of women and address discrimination in our nation’s trade and development program, the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP).

Around the world, women disproportionately face challenges in the workplace and barriers to entering the workforce. These challenges include legal barriers to work, restrictions on property ownership, restricted educational opportunities, violence and harassment, and wage discrimination. The Women’s Economic Empowerment in Trade Act would ensure countries receiving trade preferences under GSP strengthen standards on worker rights, human rights, and the rights of women.

“U.S. trade preferences shouldn’t be supporting countries whose industries exclude women, violate human rights, or discriminate against them,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “Under my legislation, if a country wants to trade with America, its industries should follow standards that empower women. Standing up for women will always be a priority of mine, and I’m proud to see a bipartisan majority in the Senate pass the provisions I worked on with Senator Casey so we can better empower them across the globe.”

“The advancement of women’s rights and economic empowerment is a matter of human rights, economics and global security. The improvements to the Generalized System of Preferences contained in the United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021 are long overdue and will ensure countries receiving trade preferences under GSP protect and strengthen the rights of women and workers. The Senate, in advancing this legislation, is affirming the leadership of the United States in upholding the rights of workers, human rights and supporting women’s full economic participation, globally,” said Senator Casey.

A 2015 study by the McKinsey Global Institute found that reducing or eliminating gender-based discrimination could increase global GDP by $12 trillion to $28 trillion. And new research draws the connection between gender discrimination, particularly as it relates to family law, and societal outcomes, with worse outcomes for conflict, stability, economic performance, governance, and food security.

The GSP renewal contains numerous Democratic priorities, including those proposed by Senators Cortez Masto and Casey to: 

  • Add new mandatory eligibility criteria, which countries must meet to be eligible for GSP, on human rights.
  • Add criteria, which the President takes into account when designating a country as a GSP beneficiary, on equal protection under law and women’s economic empowerment;
  • Update the definition of “internationally recognized worker rights” to include the elimination of discrimination in occupation and employment.
  • Provide new reporting requirements on how GSP promotes worker rights and women’s economic empowerment.
  • Direct USTR to encourage and support the reporting by beneficiary developing countries of sex-disaggregated economic and business data, including the gathering of information consistent with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.