Tensions between the government of the United States and Ethiopia do not appear to be diminishing. On December 29, Secretary of State Antony Blinken had a telephone conversation with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, discussing above all the crisis in Ethiopia and its evolution.
According to what was stated by the spokesman of the State Department, Ned Price, both the United States and Kenya agreed on the need for the continuation of the ceasefire, the start of negotiations, the opening of humanitarian corridors and the immediate cessation of any violation of human rights.
The position expressed by Secretary of State Blinken frustrated the government in Addis Ababa, which described it as an intrusion into Ethiopia’s internal affairs and, more importantly, as a practical demonstration of the de facto support for the Tigrinya TPLF by the United States and many other Western and regional countries.
A further worsening of the relations between Washington and Addis Ababa took place on January 1, with the officialization of the U.S. decision to remove Ethiopia – along with Mali and Guinea – from the Trade Tariff Exemption Agreement.
The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) had in fact confirmed on December 23 its intention to remove the three countries from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), as a result of “actions taken by each of the governments in violation of the AGOA statute”.
According to the USTR, the United States took the decision to exclude Ethiopia because of the evidence of “serious human rights violations” in the conflict fought in the north of the country, while for Mali and Guinea the measure was necessary as a result of unconstitutional changes promoted by local governments.
The exclusion of the three countries was, however, defined by the USTR as reversible, if respect for the political and social parameters on which the AGOA is based are re-established.
The response from Ethiopia was not long in coming, when the Minister of Commerce said he was “saddened by the U.S. decision,” asking Washington to reconsider it in view of the “numerous initiatives Ethiopia is pursuing to bring peace, stability, political consensus and economic development.”
The measure is likely to determine a highly negative impact especially on Ethiopia’s thriving textile sector, consolidated over the years as a central element of the international clothing industry, thus affecting the national economy in a particularly fragile phase, resulting from the exorbitant costs of the conflict.
According to the Ethiopian news agency FANA, moreover, the government intends to propose an additional budget request to the Federal Parliament for the financing of reconstruction programs in the areas affected by the conflict. The previous estimate of 2.5 billion dollars, in fact, could be increased by 102 million dollars to meet a request for funding a program to rehabilitate the wounded and war victims. The trend of the economic crisis, however, raises doubts about the government’s ability to find the necessary resources to cover the budget requested, fueling doubts, especially at international level, about the real possibility of its effective adoption.