The Fourth Ethio-Sudan Joint Technical Committee Meeting opened in Addis Ababa on Wednesday this week (October 19) at the Elili Hotel. The three day meeting brought together a range of stakeholders from the governments of Ethiopia and Sudan to review the progress of the various agreements signed during the previous Joint Technical Committee Meeting and to look into other potential areas of bilateral cooperation, such as possible joint cooperation for further economic integration.In a keynote address, State Minster of the Ministry of Industry and Head of the Ethiopian technical committee, Dr Meberhatu Meles, emphasized that Ethiopia and Sudan had enjoyed a strong, longstanding and historic relationship. He said the ties between the two countries remained outstanding both at government and people-to-people levels. He said, “We have an excellent relationship, and will continue to build on that so that we can further deepen the relationship between the two sisterly countries.” Dr. Meberhatu noted that “Ethiopia and Sudan were not only neighboring countries, but also shared strong political, economic and cultural bonds. He said, “Today the peoples of Sudan and Ethiopia are ‘surfing in the same boat’. The peace, stability and development of Sudan are our security, peace and development. The peace, security and prosperity of Ethiopia likewise provide the same for Sudan. Indeed, we can say our two countries are moving together, hand in hand, towards the same common destiny.”
The State Minister also noted that their current cooperation was the best witness that the two countries could surmount any bilateral or regional challenges together. He said, “Our two governments have frequently consulted and coordinated positions on matters of trade, investment, and economic integration”. He took the opportunity to express the commitment of the Government of Ethiopia to strengthen economic integration via railway connectivity, which he said, would further lift bilateral socio-economic ties to a new high. Emphasizing the possibility of enhancing cooperation in the banking sector, he said the Government of Ethiopia was also working to establish a branch office in Khartoum for the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia. The State Minister said the current meeting sought to develop a draft agreement between Sudan and Ethiopia, with particular reference to the development of a free trade zone and a special economic zone. This he said would further facilitate bilateral trade and investment, as well as support the banking and transport industry. State Minister Dr. Meberhatu also noted that Ethiopia, in order to extend economic ties, would soon establish industrial parks in the corridor of north eastern Sudan stretching up to port Sudan for better utilization of the port. A multimodal structure has been prepared and would be implemented after ratification by the two parties.
Sudan’s Finance State Minster, Dr. Abdurahman Mohammed Drir underlined that the friendly relations of the two countries emanated from historical roots and the Joint Technical Committee shouldered great responsibility for their continuation. He said their economic and political ties had brought immense benefit for both countries and their peoples. Dr. Abdurahman emphasized that extending road and railway links was vital for the advancement of their mutual benefit and this would require the involvement of international financial institutions. He also stressed that Sudan welcomed Ethiopia accessing the Red Sea to help maximize its trade benefit from foreign markets.
Ethiopia and Sudan have been able to sign numerous protocols and agreements paving the way for continued and mutually beneficial cooperation. It is the best interest of the two countries to work towards the effective implementation of the bilateral cooperation agreements signed in the areas of trade and infrastructure interconnections. Ethiopia is an anchor of peace and stability in the Horn of Africa and in addition to involvement in regional peace and stability, has been working hard to encourage regional economic integration. The relations Ethiopia has with Sudan are based on trust and a win-win approach. Indeed, these economic and political relations could serve as a model for other countries in the region. Their strong economic interdependence and cooperation can, in fact, be seen as a necessary ingredient for sub-regional integration efforts in the Horn of Africa. Strengthening Ethiopia and Sudan bilateral cooperation will help realize economic integration and peaceful coexistence in the region.
In addition to this Fourth Ethio-Sudan Joint Technical Committee Meeting in Addis Ababa, a four-day workshop to develop the legal framework for border crossings is being held in Khartoum. It opened on Monday (October 17) with the participation of legal experts from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). Sudan’s Minister of Presidential Affairs and head of the higher committee for border crossings, Fadl Abdalla Fadl, said the workshop sought to develop a draft agreement between Sudan and Ethiopia on the creation of a border crossing, and he emphasized that a single border crossing between Ethiopia and Sudan would facilitate efforts to combat cross-border crimes such as the illegal drug trade or human trafficking.
Abdel-Hafiz Salih Ali, Director of Sudan’s General Administration of Customs, stressed the need to develop a legal framework to regulate border-crossings through the implementation of the joint border station and coordinated border management systems. He also highlighted the importance of such a project to achieve the optimal use of resources, and increase volumes of international trade as well as combat cross-border crime. Mr. Ali said the General Administration of Customs, as well as other government and private entities, wanted to benefit from international trade facilitation standards, integrating the work of international organizations such as the World Customs Organization and the World Trade Organization together with regional economic and political blocs such as COMESA and IGAD. He said a number of African countries have applied the joint border station system which led to enhancing international trade flows. President Omar al-Bashir said earlier Sudan was determined to promote the relations with Ethiopia within their shared strategic vision for joint cooperation in all fields. He said Khartoum would work hard to transform the Ethiopia/Sudan border into a comprehensive economic integrated zone.