ADDIS ABABA – The Economic Commission for Africa – a think tank with specialist expertise in regional and global trade policy – says it will continue helping Ethiopia’s trade policy agenda that aims to foster industrialization and sustained economic growth.
Although Ethiopia remained outside the regional and global trading regimes for a long time, this is now changing.
Not only has Ethiopia ratified the Agreement Establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), it is also negotiating its accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
However, neither the negotiations to join the WTO, nor the efforts to implement the AfCFTA Agreement have been smooth sailing.
ECA’s Regional Integration and Trade Division Director Stephen Karingi said the political resolve to change course and put Ethiopia at the trade policy decision-making table “is clearly there”.
“But it has not been matched by the technical capacity to translate this political will to concrete outcome,” the Director told a Roundtable on Multi-partner Support on Trade Policy held late last month.
Karingi confirmed ECA’s readiness to work with all the partners to support the government and private sector realize Ethiopia’s trade policy priorities at the national, bilateral, regional, continental, and global levels.
The ECA has supported Ethiopia in trade policy development and conducted the first-of-its-kind analysis on the economic impact of the country’s participation in the AfCFTA. it has also supported training programs organized for leaders and senior staff of the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Associations (ECCSA) and the Addis Chamber.
Ethiopia’s State Minister for Trade and Regional Integration Kassahun Gofe said advancing the WTO and AfCFTA engagement was a key tool to consolidate the domestic economic reforms achieved so far.
“In regards to the AfCFTA, it opens a new era of trade governance in Africa, and it must be viewed as an opportunity to implement necessary structural reforms in African countries,” he observed.
Private sector’s view
President of ECCSA Melaku Ezezew welcomed the roundtable meeting as most opportune after a lull in action since Ethiopia ratified the AfCFTA.
Citing the failure of closed-door economic policies which have hurt Ethiopia’s trade competitiveness, he said the private sector needs to overcome the challenges of poor access to finance, a weak competition regulatory regime, and inadequate institutional coordination which were all linked to poor policy development and implementation.
“Better regulation is a better environment to do business; better regulation is fewer transaction costs; better regulation is improved competitiveness for the Ethiopian business sector,” said Melaku.
He, however, noted that a bulk of the Ethiopian business sector was not informed about the AfCFTA and the WTO.
Evidence suggests that Ethiopia’s membership of the WTO and meaningful trading under the AfCFTA will increase economic growth, forex-generating exports, FDI and create jobs, as per the ECA.
This will also enhance the transparency and predictability of its business environment as Ethiopia conforms to international standards on issues like investor protection and customs processes.
The Roundtable on Multi-partner Support on Trade Policy to Ethiopia was organized by the ECA in collaboration with the British Embassy in Addis Ababa.
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