The Government of Ethiopia recently released its Draft Trade Policy. The 46-page document serves as a guideline for the government when negotiating and implementing bilateral, regional, and multilateral trade agreements and when taking domestic measures to facilitate and regulate trade.

For years, Ethiopia has needed a single comprehensive trade policy document. Instead, it had a raft of general economic plans and policies to fill the gap, notably the previous Growth and Transformation Plan I and II and the current Ten Years Development Plan. These documents focused on increasing Ethiopia’s market access, trade competitiveness, and strengthening its economic relations with other countries.

It would not be an overstatement to say that 2018 was a momentous year in the history of regional integration in Africa, since it was then that the African Union Member States established the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Aside from its continental ambit, departing from the focus on integration through regional economic communities (RECs) in Africa, the timing of the formation of the AfCFTA is interesting and commendable. It was formed at a time when many were talking about the return of “deglobalization” (referring to less integration among economies) and the rise of populism and protectionism, challenging the post-Cold War era of free trade areas, even in countries that were traditionally the ardent advocates of globalization.

One of the occurrences of the final decade of the 20th Century that has profoundly impacted the Ethiopian economy and politics is arguably Eritrea’s independence from the country in 1993. It made Ethiopia a landlocked country, forcing it to depend on the ports of its neighbors to import and export goods, to say the least. Ethiopia currently relies on ports in  Djibouti for 95 Pct of its international trade, while the Ports of Sudan and Berbera (mostly for aid) and Ethiopian Airlines (mostly for perishable goods, such as flowers) cover most of the remainder.

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