11 January 2014

Ethiopia Stumbles On WTO Accession

Ethiopia will not be ready to open up financial and other essential sectors to gain World Trade Organization (WTO) accession until 2015, according to the Ministry of Trade.

This is in contrast with the 2011 Growth and the Transformation Plan (GTP), which promised the finalization of accession within its four-year term.

Geremew Ayalew, director general of trade relations and negotiations directorate at the Ministry of Trade (MoT), confirmed that the government targeted WTO accession in the GTP. However that is not going to happen, he said, as the government prioritized sectors such as telecom, finance and energy, meaning that opening up is not likely to happen until the end of 2015. Currently Ethiopia is in phase four of responding to the questions of the negotiating countries.

Canada, the US, and some European countries posed questions following the goods offer Ethiopia submitted a year ago. The Republic of South Korea joined the group for the fourth round, where some 168 questions were leveled at Ethiopia. Geremew argues that negotiations for WTO accession remain wide open, and determining when Ethiopia will secure its position with the organization is difficult to predict. He added that being a member of the WTO is not necessarily an attractive opportunity, and it could pose significant challenges if correct preparations are neglected. Ethiopia is negotiating on the import and export tariffs of goods and services with the WTO member states.

The current tariff measures at 35 percent, but after accession that figure may double depending on the predictability of the market. The goods offer is a document that details the amount of goods and services Ethiopia is willing to trade among the WTO members. It also is a document that states some 5,000 or so products of Ethiopia to which the country is willing to trade, based on market access negotiations.

The service offer is the most debated and challenging to Ethiopia, where some strategic government sectors are included in the accession process. The country is expected to provide the details of the service offer during the current Ethiopian fiscal year. In related news, a National Enquiry Point (NEP) is to be established as an information center to serve the WTO accession, together with local and international business entities. The NEP is to become the central database of Ethiopia, where essential information on trade and related sector enquires are to be facilitated across the country. The Ethiopian Standards Agency is the focal organization undertaking the upcoming launch of NEP operations.

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