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publication February 25, 2021

Trade Facilitation Challenges for Women Traders in the Pacific Islands and Timor-Leste


Employees at Ben’s Trading Limited, exporter of agricultural products in Fiji. © Jason Chute/World Bank

The expansion of international trade can help address critical development challenges in the Pacific Islands and Timor-Leste – 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.

The World Bank Group has completed research to identify the specific challenges men and women traders face. Over 1,500 cross-border trading firms were surveyed in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Timor-Leste, and Vanuatu.

Cover of publication: Trade Facilitation Challenges for Women Traders in the Pacific Islands and Timor-Leste

Download the Regional report

The regional report is based on a comparison of the survey findings and recommendations across the five countries.

"Trade facilitation is important for female traders. Promoting gender equality will help expand our role in the economy."
Mere Samisoni
Owner of Hot Bread Kitchen, Fiji


Unlocking Trade for Women in the Pacific

Unlocking Trade for Women in the Pacific

Women-led firms experience greater trade challenges in the Pacific Islands and Timor-Leste. Targeted policies could help maximize the benefits of trade for women, so that they can participate more fully in the economy.

The report provides a wealth of new data and includes a summary of key findings, as well as recommendations on how to address the main obstacles identified.


Select regional findings

The survey showed that women-led businesses face greater challenges in several areas:

  • Fewer women are represented in trade associations, which are important to obtain critical information on trade and help traders provide feedback to government regulators.
  • With the exception of Samoa, fewer women are consulted by the government on matters related to border processes. Strong private sector consultations can help increase compliance to new trade rules. 
  • Fewer women are aware that declarations can be submitted electronically. On average, more men are aware of electronic submissions than women. Electronic submissions can often save traders time in doing business. 
  • Fewer women are aware that customs allows pre-declaration of shipments prior to arrival. Pre-declaring goods often allows goods to be released faster.
  • Over 90% of both men and women traders were unaware of National Trade Facilitation Committees in their countries. Made up of both public and private sector representatives, the committees play a vital role in planning and implementing trade reforms.

In other areas there were no significant differences between the experiences of men and women traders.

Bernadete Bian leading female entrepreneur in Timor-Leste

Bernadete Bian, bakery business owner, Timor-Leste. Photo: Sarah Wiles / Positive Media



  • Improving access to and the quality of information on border related processes and procedures
  • Strengthening the role of the National Trade Facilitation Committee
  • Strengthening formal grievance procedures
  • Promoting pre-declaration practices
  • Exploring reasons for detention and seizure of goods
  • Strengthening the system for electronic payments
  • Reviewing opening hours of ports/border agencies

This analysis can help governments better understand trade barriers and design policy that maximizes the benefits of trade for women, so that they can participate more fully in the economy.

Download reports

The individual country reports provide recommendations and specific actions applicable to each country.


Support for the initiative was provided 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. This initiative—implemented by IFC and the World Bank—provides assistance to countries seeking to align their trade practices with the World Trade Organization Trade Facilitation Agreement (WTO TFA).