News: Ethiopia prepares for fifth-round WTO meeting to advance membership bid

Gebremeskel Chala, the Chief Negotiator of Ethiopia to the WTO (Photo: Ministry of Trade and Regional Integration/Facebook)

Addis Abeba – Gebremeskel Chala, the Chief Negotiator of Ethiopia to the WTO, has announced Ethiopia’s preparations for the upcoming fifth-round World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting scheduled for May 2024, describing it as a pivotal event crucial for the country’s accession to the organization.

After an eight-year hiatus, Ethiopia renewed its efforts to join the WTO in January 2020. However, these efforts have faced disruptions in recent years, primarily due to factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nevertheless, Ethiopia revitalized its endeavors last year when a delegation led by Gebremeskel visited the WTO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, engaging in discussions with the Director-General in July 2023.

In an interview with state media, Gebremeskel, who also serves as the Minister of Trade and Regional Integration, highlighted that this visit resulted in a three-year timeframe for Ethiopia to conclude negotiations and secure WTO membership.

“Ethiopia has received approximately 180 questions and 9 documents from member countries and potential negotiating partners,” he stated. “These inquiries will be addressed through a dedicated platform facilitated by the WTO itself.”

According to Gebremeskel, the Ministry is currently finalizing crucial documents required for WTO accession. “These documents encompass various aspects, including offers related to goods and services trade, import licensing procedures, information on public business enterprises, trade-related laws, as well as details regarding export subsidies and agricultural support,” he explained.

Since 2003, Ethiopia has held observer status at the WTO, a position that, according to the Chief Negotiator, has provided valuable insights into the organization’s operations, aiding the country’s preparations for full membership.

In late February 2024, a high-level Ethiopian delegation, comprising Gebremeskel, Mamo Mihretu, governor of the National Bank of Ethiopia, and Eyob Tekalign, State Minister for Finance, attended the 13th WTO Ministerial Conference to underscore Ethiopia’s ongoing commitment to joining the global trade body. AS

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