Remarks by Patricia Haslach at the Ethiopian Maritime Training Institute

“As prepared for delivery”

Remarks by Patricia Haslach

U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia

at the Ethiopian Maritime Training Institute

Bahir Dar, Ethiopia

November 18, 2014

Good morning!  I am very excited to be here with you this morning.  I am excited not only because I am at a wonderful university speaking with students, but because this is a special school with U.S. connections, and I am able to celebrate and mark what we call International Education Week with you!

But first, I would like to thank Dr. Bayle Damitie, President of Bahir Dar University, and Jordan Buchler, General Manager of the Ethiopian Maritime Training Institute (EMTI), for such a warm welcome.  I would also like to thank you, all the students and faculty, for joining me today.  I look forward to hearing from you and engaging with you following some short remarks I would like to make.

EMTI and Bahir Dar University

I am particularly pleased to be speaking today at a higher educational institution established by a U.S. company, the YCF Group.   YCF Maritime describes itself as “an efficient maritime service provider.”  But it is also clearly an excellent provider of skilled manpower, which I see before me today.

I have to say, when I tell people that there is a premier maritime training institute in Ethiopia, a land-locked country, they give me a funny look.  But I think Ethiopia is a perfect place for such a training program.  With a growing cadre of strong English speakers with solid technical skills, Ethiopia has the potential to “export” considerable talent, generating incomes that benefit entire communities.

Highly skilled marine officers are in demand in today’s merchant shipping sector. This demand is fuelled by the growth of global trade and the volume of cargo shipped by sea. EMTI is one of the largest Marine Academies in the world, and its marine academy provides a major supply line of highly trained marine officers to international shipping companies. Through EMTI, YCF Maritime is also addressing an important challenge facing Ethiopia, finding suitable employment for its increasing number of university students.

I am impressed that EMTI, working in cooperation with Bahir Dar University, is creating good professional opportunities for Ethiopian students, in a field that is both exciting and offers very promising career opportunities.   The skills learned here and at sea, such as discipline, resourcefulness, tolerance for diversity and crisis-management, are all skills that have applications on land as well.

As you know, the U.S. has an old and cherished maritime heritage, and we are pleased and excited to help foster a maritime tradition in Ethiopia as well.

U.S. Engagement with Ethiopia

Let me say a few words about U.S.-Ethiopian relations.  The United States and the people of Ethiopia share a strong history as friends and partners since we established diplomatic relations in 1903 over a hundred years ago. Today Ethiopia is at the diplomatic center of Africa, and the steady heart of the Horn of Africa, and a strong diplomatic partner of the United States.

When Prime Minister Hailemariam met President Obama at the United Nations General Assembly in September (which was only one of a few meetings the President had with world leaders), President Obama held up Ethiopia as one of the bright spots of Africa, with one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. As President Obama mentioned, we are strong trading partners, and we work together closely on peacekeeping and conflict resolution, including through peacekeeping missions in Sudan and South Sudan.

Today, the three pillars of the bilateral relationship are: economic growth and development; democracy, governance, and human rights; and regional peace and security.

Given your studies and the university faculty gathered here, today I will make a few remarks on the importance of higher education and the growing trade and people-to-people ties between our two nations.

Economic Development in Ethiopia and Trade

The U.S. applauds Ethiopia’s progress on economic development over the last ten years.  Ethiopia has had one of the world’s fastest growing economies over the last decade.

Under the government’s Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP), economic growth has been led by government investment in public infrastructure projects from schools and clinics to hydro-electric power plants, airports, roads and railways.

U.S. economic assistance is aimed at linking directly to the GTP, and our economic interests are mutual.  Both American and Ethiopian businesses will prosper by further deepening our trade relationship, and an economically sustainable Ethiopia is of vital importance to the stability of the Horn of Africa.

We have also seen significantly increased trade between the United States and Ethiopia, although there is considerable room for improvement.  In 2013 two-way trade with Ethiopia was $872 million.  The U.S. trade surplus with Ethiopia was $485 million, largely because we sell a number of Boeing airplanes to Ethiopian Airlines.

The top export categories in 2013 were:  aircraft, machinery, and wheat.

Ethiopia’s exports to the United States were lower and totaled $194 million in 2013.  Among the largest import categories were spices, coffee and tea, footwear, and apparel.  Ethiopia’s leading agriculture import to the U.S. was unroasted coffee ($80 million).

The vast majority of this trade is conducted by shipping, and it will grow, and I expect many of you will be a part of making that happen.

People-to-People Ties

Promoting people-to-people connections between the United States and the rest of the world is another top priority for the United States.  It not only promotes connections between people, but it clearly is an economic bonus for the United States economy in terms of trade, tourism, and investment.

We work closely with the Government of Ethiopia in this area, and we are proud to have both a growing movement between our two nations, but also a growing Ethiopian population in the United States.

In sheer numbers, worldwide in Fiscal Year 2013 the United States adjudicated almost 10.7 million non-immigrant visa applications, and issued over 9.1 million non-immigrant visas, including over 500,000 student visas.  This is an enormous amount of people, and an impressively high rate of visa issuance.  In economic terms, the U.S. government estimates that international travelers contributed more than $152 billion to the U.S. economy in 2013. 

Our visa regime, which supports both non-immigrant and immigrant visas, directly supports connections between Ethiopia and Ethiopians who have chosen to visit, study in, or immigrate to the United States.  As you all know, the United States is a country of immigrants, and Ethiopians represent an increasingly large number of the United States population.  This Ethiopian diaspora contributes to the U.S. economy, but also to the Ethiopian economy.

I say this to you principally because most of you will soon be engaged in international trade and travel, and it is important to understand why and how the United States believes in and supports the movement of people between nations.

According to a recent study, there are approximately 255,000 Ethiopian immigrants in the United States.  The size of this population has grown rapidly over the past few decades, from about 10,000 in 1980. Today, Ethiopia-born immigrants are now the second largest African immigrant group in the United States after Nigeria.

Ethiopians immigrants in the United States are also an economic boon for both our nations, and they are the top source of remittances to Ethiopia from any country.  During 2012 alone, the Ethiopian diaspora in the U.S. transferred $181 million to Ethiopia.

What you can take from this is that both economic and people-to-people ties are growing rapidly between the United Sates and Ethiopia, and the numbers show it.  They can and should continue to grow, and our bilateral relationship will only strengthen as more and more Ethiopians move back and forth between our two countries.

As an example of our commitment to fostering and encouraging these ties I am pleased to announce the establishment of a new visa class for Ethiopians – the C1/D visa.  This new crewmember transit visa will help facilitate your travel to and from the U.S. in your future careers as shipping vessel crewmembers.  One of our Consular Officers – Dane Robbins – is here with me today to help answer any specific questions you may have.

International Education Week

I would like to close by U.S. support for higher education globally and in Ethiopia in particular.   As I noted, this is International Education Week, an opportunity to celebrate the benefits of international education worldwide.

The United States welcomes and encourages qualified students to consider opportunities to study in the United States.  We also have a range of programs in Ethiopia offering university professors and students scholarship opportunities, be it the Fulbright or Humphrey programs.  At the U.S. Embassy here we also support a number of partnerships between U.S. and Ethiopian universities that foster academic exchange, curriculum development and joint research between U.S. and Ethiopian universities.

These are all very important areas for us and for strengthening U.S. –Ethiopian relations.  You can learn more about these opportunities, and a host of other information about the United States, in person by visiting one of our American Corners, one of which is here in Bahir Dar at the Aba Mengesha Geneme Public Library.

I will close now, and I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Thank you.