Stalled eight-year-old negotiations to join the Geneva- based body are about to resume in Africa’s second-most populous nation, where the government retains monopolies in power generation and telecommunications and foreign banks are barred.
“There’s hardly ever total liberalization,” Chiedu Osakwe, head of the accession division, said in an interview yesterday in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. “The acceding government undertakes commitments, with restrictions on market access.”
The comments reflect a 2002 ruling by the WTO, which called on members to “exercise restraint in seeking concessions and commitments on trade” when the poorest countries try to join. Ethiopia, which has had economic growth of about 10 percent for the past seven years, will push to retain control of “sensitive” areas, State Minister of Trade Yakob Yala said.
“Hopefully most of them will be respected,” he said in an interview in Addis Ababa on Feb. 8.
Osakwe and Yakob attended a U.S. Agency for International Development-organized two-day workshop on the accession process that finished yesterday in Addis Ababa. There will be a second, one-day working party in Geneva on May 6, which will be followed by Ethiopia submitting its initial market access offers and bilateral negotiations with existing members.
“All 25 countries that have recently acceded have made offers on energy, telecoms, banking and financial services,” Osakwe said. “What does not work is total closure.”
To contact the reporter on this story: William Davison in Addis Ababa via Johannesburg at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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