Ethiopia may be eligible to join the World Trade Organisation (WTO) by 2014, according to officials at the organisation.
The announcement that the country may be able to join the WTO within the next two years was made by Pascal Lamy, out-going Director General of the organisation while visiting Ethiopia to hold talks on the potential WTO membership.
Lamy met with Ethiopia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Tedros Adhanom to discuss the accession procedures and requirements for membership, which the country has been working to meet for some time.
Ethiopia made its initial application to become part of the WTO in 2003, and a Working Party to consider and guide the country’s accession was set up in February of the same year.
Key issues pertaining to Ethiopia joining the WTO have surrounded the opening up of currently state-monopolised sectors, such as the telecommunications and finance sectors, while the country has also been called upon to allow investment by foreign entities.
Ethiopia’s human rights policies and practices have also come under scrutiny over the protracted application process.
The current announcement by Lamy indicates that Ethiopia may be nearing completion of all the transformations required by the organisation, with the Director General’s visit also intended to provide specific advice in order that the final stages of accession may be swift.
In addition to the accession talks, Lamy also reportedly met with the country’s Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn – who replaced Prime Minister Meles Zenawi who died suddenly last year following an unspecified illness– in order to discuss matters of economic integration, with a view to creating a stable economic space in Ethiopia and the region, as well as speaking about Ethiopia’s role in the upcoming G-20 meeting to be held in Russia later this year.
Once Ethiopia meets all of the requirements set out for accession, the final decision regarding membership will fall to the member countries of the WTO, who must all sign and ratify an accession agreement granting full membership.