Heads of major companies from the United States that are on official tour in Addis Ababa said they will help and accelerate Ethiopia’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO).
“Addressing the three priorities: setting the standards under the WTO umbrella that demonstrates global standard and rules; facilitating trade through customs modernization; addressing the financial constraints that currently exists, can unleash a lot of economic opportunities here and are going to be transformative,” said Laura Lane, President for Global Public Affairs, UPS who is one of the dozens of United States companies decision makers currently visiting Ethiopia.
The delegation led by Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Gilbert Kaplan, is in Ethiopia as part of the fact finding mission assigned by President Donald Trump to examine the business climates in selected African countries and report back to the President.
Represented by state agencies, Ethiopia and the United States have signed memorandum of understanding on Tuesday, which includes collaborations on accelerating Ethiopia’s WTO accession; facilitation and modernization of customs process and addressing financial constraint in Ethiopia through facilitation of more investments from the United States to Ethiopia.
“Acceleration of Ethiopia’s accession to the WTO is significant…it sends the message to businesses that Ethiopia is operating on the basis of the rules that companies around the world are operating. And that is a very compelling message to send to companies to expand their presence here and to invest in Ethiopia. Having those standards with respect to protection of intellectual property, clear rules, procedures for investment and standards being set are critically important,” said
Commenting on the need to modernize the customs process, “If you want to increase trade, you need to take the complexity out of it,” she said.
“Modernization of Ethiopia’s customs processes is going to be fundamental in transforming import and export products in and out of this country,” she said. “To facilitate more financing and capital investment so that the private sector here in partnership with American companies or those interested in investing have access to capital that they need to develop projects that are priority interest by the government.
“About 18 months ago we at the President’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa (PAC-DBIA) started studying about how we can improve our relations, in terms of business, trade and commercial objectives with Africa…This important to know it is not just a onetime visit. We tend to continue our relationship… PAC-DBIA is set up several years ago to advice the White House, the President, the Secretary of Commerce on how to improve business and commercial relations with Africa,” said Gilbert Kaplan.
Ethiopia has applied to be member of the WTO early 2003. For a country to be a member of the WTO, it has to be willing to open the sectors existing member countries are interested in. Major investment sectors such as telecom, banking air transport, customs and logistics, transport, among others have been closed for foreign investors.
Meanwhile the government has announced about a month ago that it is planning to sell its share in Ethio Telecom, Ethiopian Airlines, Ethiopian Shipping lines and Ethiopian Electric Corporation, is most welcomed by global investors including the United States companies.
Composed of 23 U.S. companies across a variety of sectors, PAC-DBIA’ next destination is Kenya, Côte d’Ivoire, and Ghana.