It was the first meeting of the working party in almost eight years. The Ethiopian delegation said it was ready to work jointly with members to advance and, hopefully, conclude, the accession process by the end of 2021.
The chair of the Working Party, Ambassador Morten Jespersen of Denmark, stressed that the resumption of Ethiopia's accession process coincides with the internationally recognized peace and integration efforts by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who was awarded the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.
"As the Prime Minister said in his Nobel speech, while the world is shifting rapidly, it is time for Ethiopia to reap peace dividends with good faith to blossom into prosperity, security and opportunity. I have no doubt that today's Working Party meeting will contribute to reaching this goal, by becoming a critical turning point in the history of Ethiopia's accession" to the WTO, Ambassador Jespersen said.
"This meeting convened almost after eight years, has been critical at least on two accounts: first, sending a clear message that the accession of Ethiopia is back; and second, Ethiopia's engagement is decisively different from the past – it is pro-active and offensive, as the WTO accession is integral to Ethiopia's ambitious economic reform agenda," he added.
The chair noted that Ethiopia plays a major role in the Horn of Africa region, which has the highest concentration of WTO accession activities. "Therefore, the resumption of the accession of Ethiopia is expected to give positive impetus to other African accessions, as well as regional integration efforts in the African continent, such as the African Continental Free Trade Area."
Mr Mamo Mihretu, senior advisor to the Ethiopian Prime Minister and chief trade negotiator, led a high-level government delegation, including Ambassador Misganu Arga Moach, State Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr Eyob Tekalign Tolina, State Minister of Finance, Ambassador Zenebe Kebede Korcho, Permanent Representative of Ethiopia in Geneva, as well as other senior government officials and experts from a range of ministries and government agencies.
Mr Mamo underscored the government's commitment to the accession process and called on members to accelerate negotiations in consideration of Ethiopia's status as a least developed country (LDC).
"Membership of the WTO is only the logical next step in Ethiopia’s broader efforts to inject rule of law and predictability in its relations with all states around the world," he said. "Let me emphasize that Ethiopia is now ready for a deal; I am here to seek your full support and commitment to facilitate this process and bring Ethiopia into the WTO within the shortest possible period, ideally not later than the end of 2021." ■