Ethiopia’s long, meandering process to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) an organization that intends to supervise and liberalize international trade
among the world’s economies may come to an end in 2014 with the country’s accession following the positive outcome of the discussions currently taking place in Geneva, Switzerland where the organization is based.
The announcement was made during the visit of the outgoing WTO Director General Pascal Lamy who is leaving the organization after more than seven years on the position.
Nebiyu Tedla minister counselor of the spokesperson office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) said Lamy held talks with Dr. Tedros Adhanom Minister of Foreign Affairs on the current progress of the WTO accession negotiation, which is in the fourth stage of the working party meeting.
Ethiopia’s first bid to join the WTO, where it has an observatory position since the organization’s founding in 1995, was made nearly a decade ago, but the process remained extremely slow.
This was in large part contributed by tough discussions Ethiopia had with the organization regarding opening up the service sectors such as finance and telecommunications to foreign companies. Other issues such as industry, and upholding of basic human rights were also part of the discussion process.
Ethiopia is reportedly the only country in the horn of Africa that isn’t a member of the WTO, and Lamy’s short stay in Addis Ababa this week was also intended to fast track the negotiation process by giving technical support through its secretariat as well as help speed up the accession process.
“He also discussed with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn about economic integration in the horn of Africa and also Ethiopia’s role in the next G-20 meeting which is expected to take place in Russia, in mid-2013,” said Nebiyu adding that Lamy is expected to attend this meeting before his formal resignation.
Nebiyu further said the discussion was done in the context of ongoing discussion to create a free economy zone and a liberalized economy in Ethiopia, to help it ease its membership status in WTO. Lamy on his part said Ethiopia is an emerging economy in the horn of Africa, with a big economy and a large size, has good economic relationship with some countries, and as such it’s high time it became a member of WTO .
Before Ethiopia can however be given a membership status all current member countries must sign and ratify all WTO agreements on accession.
WTO also deals with regulation of trade between participating countries; and as such provides a framework for negotiating and formalizing trade agreements, and a dispute resolution process aimed at enforcing participants’ adherence to WTO agreements, which are signed by representatives of member governments and ratified by their respective legislatures.
The WTO oversees dozens of different agreements which have the status of international legal texts, to deal with its everyday activities.