Asean women were key negotiators for CPTPP, RCEP. Are they better than men at talking trade?

Asean women were key negotiators for CPTPP, RCEP. Are they better than men at talking trade?

After Singapore and 14 other nations signed the world’s largest free-trade agreement earlier this month, veteran diplomat Tommy Koh paid tribute to Singapore’s female trade negotiators. Sharing a photo of Sulaimah Mahmood, Singapore’s chief negotiator for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Koh pointed out on Facebook that some of the city state’s best trade negotiators were women.

Koh was part of the team that negotiated the historic free-trade agreement between the United States and Singapore, which came into effect in 2004 and was the first such pact between the US and an Asian government. He highlighted two other female trade negotiators besides Sulaimah.

Ng Bee Kim was Singapore’s chief negotiator for the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a deal signed two years ago between 11 countries, including several from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean). It was regarded as more comprehensive than the RCEP as it encompasses issues such as labour rights and environmental protections. It was initially designed by the US but Donald Trump withdrew in 2017.