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Wto accession: the possible benefits for ethiopia

Author: 
Samuel Maireg Biresaw
Subject Area: 
Social Sciences and Humanities
Abstract: 

It has been almost two decades since Ethiopia commenced the cumbersome procedure of accession to the WTO in 2003. However, the procedure being rigorous by its very nature and as revealed from the accession experience of other acceding countries it may not yet be considered as an exemplarily late accession procedure after all. On the other hand, when we consider the GDP of the country and the multitude of its various interests in negotiations and even its power of economic bargaining, it becomes difficult to justify why the process of Ethiopia’s accession to the WTO is stretched out this far. Although there were various remarkable years in which a progress was made on the course of the accession process since 2003, It is only in the coming few years that the country is expected to conclude the process of accession and finally join the global trade club. The focal point of Ethiopia’s accession to the WTO is the liberalization of its economy and its eventual opening up to foreign investment. It is a known fact that there were various explicit and implicit prohibitions and forfeitures imposed by the Ethiopian government in order to sustainably pursue its closed door economic policy. In this regard, the prohibition of the private sector to engage in important segments of the economy such as telecom, power and high level transportation, the dominant presence and role of state enterprises (even as a notable market actor) in the economy of the country, and the total closure of the financial sector (banking and insurance) to foreign investors, are typical. In 2018, however, the Ethiopian government is showing signs which incriminate that it is finally on the verge of acceding to the WTO in that it has begun taking practical measures that would, in effect, result in the ultimate opening up of the country’s economy to the wider world. The recently adopted, eventual, step by step measures seem to achieve two basic economic objectives there by catching up with the requirements of WTO accession. The first is, increasing the participation of the private sector in to the previously prohibited segments of the economy such as telecom and power via the scheme of privatization and the second being, the opening up of the previously entirely prohibited segments of the economy to foreign investors. At the present time, the government is opening up and announcing various national and international bids in order to smoothly transfer crucial sectors of the Ethiopian economy to the private sector of both national and international origin. In addition to these practical measures, the Ethiopian government, under the newly appointed Prime Minister of the country, is pursuing (forging) a tangible economic Policy of Regional Economic Integration, with the wider countries of East Africa. The government has reached on mutual understanding and signed extensive economic, bilateral agreements with Kenya, Rwanda, Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan, and even Eritrea, the former foe. These agreements are very crucial to Ethiopia in creating a port to capital city infrastructure which made the country build coast to coast railway transportation. For example, Ethiopia has forged an understanding with almost all of the East African countries on the shore of the Indian Ocean to use their ports for the meaningful underway of its foreign trade such as Djibouti, Kenya, Greater Somalia, and recently the Assab Port of Eritrea is included to the list. This has already created a substantial economic integration amongst the East African Neighbors. It would not be an exaggeration if one concludes that the new government of Ethiopia has the vision to make the country the economic hub and hegemony of the region in the very near future. Unprecedented in its history, the country is witnessing sustainable influx of foreign interest in the form of bilateral investment agreements with both nation states and multinational corporations. Moreover, the long awaited, extraction and production of the countries untouched Petroleum and Natural Gas reserves is underway and the government has already run an extraction test in 2018. When one seriously considers all the mentioned, recent activities of the Ethiopian government s/he would easily understand that the government is creating the final level economic playing field to safely harbor the consequences of the countries inevitable accession to the WTO. However, one thing should also be understood that even under the WTO negotiation the country would only be required to liberalize its economy in rounds of phases and according to the WTO agreements. This directly refers to the opening up of the financial sector, banking and insurance, to foreign investors, which is expected to be the fianl phase of the process of accession.

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