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PRESS RELEASE February 25, 2021

Reducing Trade Barriers Would Benefit Women-owned Businesses in the Pacific and Timor-Leste, Survey Finds

WASHINGTON, February 25, 2021 — Removing non-tariff trade barriers could help countries maximize gains for women-owned businesses in the Pacific Islands, Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste, according to a new World Bank Group survey.

The research identified specific challenges to border processes and procedures that women traders face in five countries: Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Timor-Leste and Vanuatu. Targeted policies – aimed, for example, at promoting paperless and automated custom systems – could help maximize the benefits of trade for women, who currently face greater challenges than men.

“Women are often at an economic disadvantage when it comes to trade. Unlocking trade facilitation barriers can help countries support women-owned businesses and expand their role in the economy,” said Caroline Freund, World Bank Group Global Director, Trade, Investment, and Competitiveness. “This will be even more important in a post-COVID-19 economy.” 

The expansion of international trade can help address critical development challenges – such as distance from major markets, dispersed populations and vulnerability to climate-related disasters – but the benefits of trade facilitation often impact men and women differently.

About 1,500 cross-border trading firms took part in the survey, which showed that women-led firms experience greater obstacles. Fewer women are represented in trade associations and they are consulted less regularly when it comes to matters related to border processes. Women are also dependent on more flexibility in doing business due to more family obligations. 

The ongoing pandemic has highlighted the urgent need for trade facilitation reforms to expedite the movement, release, and clearance of goods. The survey findings help raise awareness around the importance of trade facilitation while promoting the benefits of trade for women. 

The World Bank Group has been supporting the Pacific Islands and Timor-Leste to improve trade competitiveness and drive economic diversification. As part of this, the gender survey was supported by the World Bank Group with funding from the Trade Facilitation Support Program (TFSP). The TFSP is funded by nine donor partners: Australia, Canada, the European Commission, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United States, and the United Kingdom.


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