Ethiopia has edge over other poor nations in bid to join WTO, Lamy says
Ethiopia has a better chance of becoming a member of the World Trade Organization than any other least-developed country, WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy said. This is largely due to Ethiopia's status as the second-most populous African nation, with more than 82 million inhabitants, even though other LDCs have bigger economies, Lamy told Mulu Solomon, president of the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Associations, on January 30 in Addis Ababa.
Ethiopia, which applied for WTO membership in 2003, is struggling to compete in its own market because its goods and services don't match up with those of developed countries, Solomon said, agreeing with the WTO's position that capacity-building should be a key focus area. The WTO working party on Ethiopia's accession has also urged the country to work on investment and pricing policies, import regulations, customs procedures, export restrictions, state-trading enterprises, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, technical barriers to trade, intellectual property and services.
`Ethiopia has to strengthen the competitiveness of its domestic industries and increase the export capacity of its products,' Solomon said. `Owing to institutional-capacity limitations, and to maximize the benefits of joining to the multilateral trading system and minimize the possible challenges this may entail, we have strengthened our relations with ITC.'
This includes financial and technical assistance from ITC through seminars, conferences and workshops to build support for the WTO, explain membership benefits and raise private-sector awareness, she said.
Lamy praised ITC's Programme for building African Capacity for Trade (PACT II), which aims to improve Ethiopia's export competitiveness and for helping to step up regional integration and boosting the capacities of regional economic commissions such as ECCSA. While the WTO and ITC have helped build stakeholder confidence in Ethiopia's accession bid, he said work must continue at an even faster pace to meet the government's target of completing accession negotiations by 2015.