Ethiopian – US trade: Banking concerns amid trade boost

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The United States is encouraging Ethiopian firms to increase their exports and imports from the worlds’ largest economy, following Monday’s launch of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ethiopia.

America’s Ambassador to Ethiopia Donald Yamamoto said that the launch of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ethiopia would enhance trade ties between the US and the East African state and lead to an increase in the exports trade from the two states.

Ethiopian exports to the US amounts to US$120 million annually, while the imports from the American market currently stands at US$160 million.

“The US is Ethiopia’s third largest destination of exports. We want to become the biggest destination for Ethiopian exports because we are one of the largest export destinations in the world. This Chamber would benefit from the trade expansion,” the envoy said.

Ethiopian members of the American Chamber of Commerce, including the Ethiopian airlines, welcomed the launch of the new trade body in Ethiopia, saying that it provided a chance to improve trade ties between the United States and the Ethiopian firms.

“We fly to the United States and so, any strengthened business relations between Ethiopia and the US will always add value to what we do,” Girma Wake, the Chief Executive of the Ethiopian Airlines, said after the launch of the American Chamber of Commerce.

The new Chamber of Commerce aims to strengthen trade ties between the US and Ethiopia. It has an initial membership of 57 firms, operating in Ethiopia as well as the US and aims to promote American investments in Ethiopia.

“The Chamber will promote import-export businesses into the US. The Chamber will also assist American multinational companies to invest in Ethiopia,” said Getachew Ayele, the President of the American Chamber in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia becomes only the fourth African country to have an American Chamber of Commerce. The US envoy said this was a signal of America’s growing trade ties.

Banking concerns

However, American members of the Chamber have voiced strong concerns over the failure by the Ethiopian government to fully liberalise the banking sector, to allow for foreign banks and free foreign exchange trade, describing it as a big setback to trade.

“The business climate in Ethiopia is improving. Ethiopia had a legacy of communist dictatorship. But this new government has been putting priority on improving the quality of Ethiopian exports,” Glenn Anders, US Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission Director in Ethiopia, indicated after the launch.

He said that Ethiopia had greater potential to develop a bigger export-trade-oriented economy in the East African region, given the success the country has had in promoting its export of horticultural crops, oil seeds and other agricultural commodities.

Ethiopian businessman, Yohannes Kifle, also a member of the Chamber, said it was regrettable that Ethiopia’s massive agricultural potential was going to waste while the country blamed drought for its continuous lack of food and starvation.

“We would be leading a group of people in our country to jump-start our economy,” Kifle said.

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