A Memestorm That Will Make You Think: “Wow, Trade and Investment Policy Is Inherently Gendered!”


The Trump Administration has made reductions in regulations a priority. Deregulation can be  popular, since some see regulations only as hindrances, unnecessary restrictions that slow economic growth and hurt job creation. Yet while regulations do limit what businesses can do and may cost them money, they are typically put in place to protect people, whether workers or consumers. The Administration’s stated goal of eliminating two regulations for every new regulation enacted might, then, have very negative consequences for workplace safety. These consequences may be especially deleterious for women, who are more likely to be found in occupations such as nursing, caretaking, and administration, which are not seen as “dangerous” jobs, but involve a tremendous number of injuries every year.

5. #BorderTax #CantStopWontStop #RobotUprising

The Administration aims to increase exports and reduce imports, and one lever they hope to use is a “Border Tax”. The argument is that American jobs are being shipped abroad to countries, such as Mexico, that pay lower wages, but the specifics, pros, and cons of this protectionist policy is a great mystery to most non-economists. Further, a border tax cannot stop automation, arguably a bigger threat to Americans’ jobs than inter-national wage disparities. Offshoring and automation are often seen as “men’s issues,” tied to old-fashioned manufacturing jobs, but offshoring and automation both threaten women as well.

4. #SameSameLaborStandards #EvenGenderEquality?

Following through on campaign promises, Trump has put re-opening negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) front and center with both Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau and Mexican President Peña Nieto. Despite this attention, formal talks are not exactly imminent and there is considerable uncertainty surrounding what Trump will seek should they come to pass. One upside is that negotiations will likely involve the strengthening of labor standards, with demands for more stringent standards regarding minimum wages, union organizing rights, and workplace safety, in a bid to make American workers more competitive. Re-negotiations could feasibly seek to incorporate standards contained in the largely unenforceable side-agreement – the North American Agreement on Labour Cooperation – which calls on parties to promote cooperative activities regarding gender equality in the workplace; eliminating employment discrimination, including gender-based; and requiring equal pay for women and men.

3. #KOforTPP? #IDK.

Largely a symbolic move on the part of the Trump administration, the executive order “unsigning” the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement was met by glee on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, as an opening to perhaps `Make China Great Again’. And although some feminist organizations opposed the TPP as harmful to American women’s wages, the former acting deputy U.S. Trade Representative, Wendy Cutler, praised it for including a section calling on states parties to undertake a number of cooperative activities to help women access the benefits of the agreement.

2. #CurrencyQuidProNuclearQuo

Formally labeling China a “currency manipulator” — keeping its currency artificially low to help its exports — has been a political talking point in the U.S. for years. Recently, Trump has stated that his government will hold off on such a label, as long as China cooperates by corralling nuclear North Korea. The politics of currency and how it relates to trade imbalances can have particularly negative consequences for women (who handle most consumption decisions) and people in lower socioeconomic brackets, since a decrease in cheap imports would hurt their pocketbooks most.

1. #NotAllJobs

Trump recently declared that “the war on coal is over,” and has emphasized the large number of jobs saved by its efforts. Yet despite the emphasis on saving jobs for Americans, the Administration has not focused any of its energy on saving the tens of thousands of jobs being shed in the retail sector. This may be because the service sector tends to be comprised largely of women and non-white men, whereas the factory jobs and coal mining jobs that are ostensibly being saved are jobs held mostly by white men.


Cosette Creamer is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Minnesota and affiliated faculty at the University of Minnesota Law School.

— Jane Lawrence Sumner is an Assistant Professor of Political Science.