By: Deputy Assistant USTR Courtney Smothers, Deputy Assistant USTR Karen Lezny, and Policy Director Andrea Boron
WASHINGTON – As we celebrate Women’s History month at the Office of the Trade Representative, we want to give special recognition to the women who make international trade happen – inventing, manufacturing, buying and selling, and seizing opportunities for themselves and their families.
We also want to give special recognition to all the distinguished women leading negotiations and solving complex problems at USTR’s office in Washington, and around the world. Women at USTR are key drivers and leaders in advocating for U.S. interests and the well-being of all our people in the economy.
In October 2021, the Biden-Harris Administration issued the first United States National Strategy for Gender Equity and Equality, and USTR, for the first time, has made explicit how its work will advance gender equity and equality and women’s economic empowerment.
We volunteered to co-lead USTR’s Gender Equity Team to support the development and implementation of this historic strategy. During the past two years, we have had the honor of coordinating and collaborating with USTR’s experts to develop creative ideas to pursue this goal. What we have discovered – and this should not be a surprise – is that while USTR’s experts’ public profiles might say “trade negotiator,” they are much more than that.
The USTR team is passionate about trade, and they think deeply about the impact of their work on women here in the United States and across the globe. As just a few examples, our digital trade experts are exploring how online platforms can create opportunities for women workers and entrepreneurs, our labor experts are championing the importance of laws against discrimination and harassment in employment, and our economists are helping all of us understand the need to develop data-driven policies and press for more gender-specific, intersectional disaggregated data and research to craft targeted, meaningful policies.
You can read more about USTR’s efforts in the recently published 2023 Trade Policy Agenda and 2022 Annual Report, which highlights our work and plans for the year ahead. In the section “Advancing Gender Equity and Equality and Women’s Economic Empowerment in Trade Policy,” we share how we are prioritizing issues concerning trade and women in our engagement with domestic stakeholders and trading partners.
As USTR’s Gender Equity co-leads, we bring our colleagues together to explore our agency’s engagement in inclusive trade. We find that it covers the globe – from regional negotiations in the Indo-Pacific to bilateral work with Kenya and Taiwan to multilateral discussions at the World Trade Organization and at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum during the U.S. host year, to extensive domestic trips to meet with American workers and business owners. USTR officials hear directly from women and other historically underserved and marginalized communities, who want modern trade policy to reflect their voices and deliver meaningful results. The people with whom USTR officials meet remind us of the real impacts of our work.
We and our colleagues are inspired to meet the magnitude of the moment. Innovating and modernizing trade policy is exciting but requires intentionality and hard work. As co-leads of USTR’s Gender Equity team, we are committed to continuing to convene, learn, listen, exchange ideas, and deploy our agency’s skills and expertise to deliver results for more women everywhere.