Ethiopia to Reinstate WTO Negotiations

The process of joining WTO was halted for the past six years

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) has formed a 10-member national committee to resume the process of World Trade Organization (WTO) accession, which was paused for the past six years.

Formed on June 10, 2019, following the framework that was approved by the Council of Ministers to provide a legal framework for the accession, both the national and technical committees held their first meeting on June 22, 2019, at Hyatt Regency Hotel on Africa Avenue.

The committee, chaired by Mamo Mihretu, the chief trade negotiator and senior advisor to the Prime Minister, is composed of delegates from the Office of the Prime Minister, ministries of Foreign Affairs, Revenues, Finance and Trade and Industry; the National Bank of Ethiopia; the National Planning and Development Commission; the Attorney General’s Office and the Policy Study Institute.

Mainly tasked with drafting the schedule and agendas for negotiation to WTO accession, the National Committee will also advise the government on trade-related negotiations, recommending policy and law revisions and advising the Prime Minister among other tasks.

A long-standing 40-member technical committee composed of representatives from government offices, the private sector, non-governmental organizations and the academic community, has been operating and will be submitting its findings and suggestions to the national committee. It can also hold negotiations with WTO on issues that are held between technical experts.

The country started work to join the WTO 18 years ago, and it has been an observer of the Organization since 1997. In 2002, it formally applied for accession and spent the following years, until 2006, producing its Memorandum of Foreign Trade Regime, which was distributed to members in January 2007, when negotiations began.

In the three rounds of negotiations made before 2013, issues of agriculture, domestic laws, and initial offers on goods, information on import licensing procedures and information on state trading enterprises were discussed. Established in 1995, WTO has 164 member countries and 23 more with observes status.

The WTO is an international organization that sets global rules for trade, agreements that cover issues related to goods, services and intellectual property. It sets principles of liberalization, countries’ commitments to lower customs tariffs and other trade barriers and to open and keep open markets for services.

In the fourth round of negotiations, Ethiopia is expected to submit goods and service price offers to WTO members. The country will also answer 168 questions that had been forwarded from the previous negotiation round.

After analyzing the recommendation of the technical committee, it was said that Ethiopia will be holding the fourth round of negotiations in the next few months; but a deadline cannot be set for the entry of Ethiopia to the WTO.

It was also said, unlike other international organizations, WTO doesn’t have mandatory regulations and is set based on agreements between countries. The formation of WTO was not as smooth as the other international organizations such as the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Opinion given on the pros and cons of joining the organizations in terms of business, investment and intellectual law, as well as the capacity of tax collecting offices, recommends that it should be examined; the government should brace itself to decrease revenue from taxation.

Three months ago, in the same effort of economic integration, parliament approved the African Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) that will gradually remove all quotas and tariffs for Ethiopians trading with member states.
(Source: FORTUNE Vol. 20 No. 999 June 23, 2019 P-8)

(The article has been a little bit modified and some paragraphs have also been omitted so as to focus on major contents only)

Link to Ethiopia's WTO Accession page in WTO web-portal

Links to Ethiopia ministries and agencies who regulate trade

ECCSA Resource & WTO Reference

The WTO Reference Center is established on the 7th floor of the Ethiopian chamber of Commerce & Sectorial Associations building, aiming to serve as a source of information for the private sector, trade promotion institutions and researchers. The center is currently being equipped with WTO related electronic training materials, publications, books and other relevant resources.