Ethiopia Resumed Membership Negotiation for World Trade Organization

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Ethiopia resumes accession of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Mamo Mihretu, chief trade negotiator and senior advisor of the Prime Minister, on his Twitter account on Tuesday, said that the discussion on the membership resumed after eight years in Geneva.


In June 2019, prime minister Abiy Ahmed formed a national committee of ten members to resume the accession of WTO. Mamo Mihretu being the chair of the committee, the other nine members had been selected from the National Bank, the Prime Minister Office, the National Plan and Development Commission, Ministry of Trade and Industry, and other governmental institutions.


The committee has the responsibility of arranging schedules and preparing agendas for the negotiation. And they also have an advising role to the government on agreements of trade and investment. Better use of trade and investment agreements have a significant role in the success of the initialized economic reform in Ethiopia.


Ethiopia’s first application to join the WTO was in 2013. Its membership has been hanged on the government’s willingness to liberalize banking and telecom sectors. Ethiopia has been refusing the request to liberalize those sectors with the reason ‘it could harm the national interest.’


Whereas, Abiy Ahmed’s government, which has brought reforms in the country, seems willing to satisfy the requirements of WTO. In June 2019, the parliament approved the “Communications Service Proclamation,” which opens the telecom sector for both local and foreign private investors.


Additionally, in 2018 the government announced its plan of privatizing, Ethiopian Airlines, power, and logistic institutions. These actions might put Ethiopia in favor of joining the WTO.


WTO is the world’s largest economic organization, which regulates global trade rules. It also settles trade disputes between member countries and supports developing countries in their needs.


The member states enjoy smooth trade flow through trade agreements of WTO. And the members have easier hurdle for trading because they have more relaxed regulations and low tariff rates with each other.


Moreover, the members of the WTO who are in the category of the Developing Countries will be provided with immediate access to the developed countries with lower tariff rates, while they don’t need to do the same in their market. Besides that,  countries in the category of Least Developed Countries (LDC), receive extra assistance in development and trade from the UN and other agencies.


Ethiopia has been in the WTO’s category of Observer since 1997. Becoming a member depends on the negotiation ability of the government in six rounds of negotiations. Ethiopia made three rounds of talks before 2013; now, the fourth step has resumed.