Addisu Bikila and FES Programme Manager Yvonne Theemann in front of the WTO building.
In order to allow insights to an important global governance institution, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung encouraged Ethiopia’s Addisu Bikila to join this year’s fellowship program at the World Trade Organization in Geneva. He shared with us his first impressions.
Addis is your home town. So what do you currently do in Geneva?
I am in Geneva to participate in a six month internship program which is coordinated by FES in collaboration with ACP [Africa, Caribbean and Pacific] Group.
Are questions of international trade important for Ethiopia?
As a country that aspires to reach a middle income level by the next few decades, international trade is of great importance. In fact international trade has become a driving force in transforming economies. The significance of raising the issue of international trade is never in doubt as it has been clearly stated in the country’s GTP plans. So the issue of international trade is equally important as other development issues.
Ethiopia is currently not a member of the World Trade Organization. Do you want to comment?
I personally believe that being a member is better than not being. Unfortunately Ethiopia is one of the biggest countries that are not a member yet. As a matter of fact, in its successive GTP plans, it was stated that the country is trying to build an export oriented economy and to increase its engagement in the multilateral trading system. To achieve these and other goals stated in the plan it’s a must to be part of this multilateral forum and to take the most out of it. As the country’s exports demand a guaranteed market access, the best way to do that is to be part of this large multilateral trade framework. I also believe that this is a good timing to accede to WTO, since Ethiopia is an LDC, it can use the flexibilities set out in the organization’s agreement. However, once the country looses its LDC status it will not be able to enjoy those flexibilities. So the price that has to be paid to accede now is clearly better than that of the next few years in which Ethiopia becomes a middle income country.
Working at the World Trade Organization: What are your impressions?
Working in the WTO is the best thing that has happened in my career so far. In this short period of time I have learnt a lot of lessons regarding the multilateral trading system. But most importantly I have learnt a lot regarding the new issues that are dominating the current trade and development dialogues (i.e. E-commerce, trade facilitation and issues related with agriculture ). I have been part of several workshops that gave me a practical experience on how the WTO operates. I also understood that other professionals who work in this area have to be provided with this and other similar opportunities in order to best serve their country.
How do you count to use your insights once you are back in Addis Abeba?
I strongly believe that this internship program will enable me to provide a meaningful contribution in Ethiopia’s accession process. I will certainly have so much more to share regarding the pressing issues in WTO which are driving the upcoming negotiations in Buenos Aires Ministerial Conference and beyond which have great importance in pushing my country one step further in its pursuit to accede to the WTO.