|04DJIBOUTI526||2004-04-12 10:35:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Djibouti|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
1. (C) Minister of Commerce and Industry, Saleban Omar
Oudine, sees the planned port of Doraleh as key to a
prosperous economic future for Djibouti. In a March 31
meeting with Ambassador, he talked about the port and its two
key components: a fuel container terminal and a Free Zone.
The container terminal will require relocation of operations
of oil companies currently in Djibouti, including America's
Exxon-Mobil, and the construction of new fuel reservoirs.
Oudine accused oil companies of having caused a great deal of
environmental harm to the existing main port, which he said
will need to be cleaned after repositioning at Doraleh.
2. (C) The Free Zone for commerce and industry envisioned for
the port could serve land-locked Common Market for Eastern
and Southern Market (COMESA) countries, according to Oudine.
Uganda wants to lease space at the Free Zone in order to
stock both imported and exported goods. As Djibouti is a
member of both COMESA and the Africa Caribbean Pacific Group
(ACP), Uganda could take advantage of Djibouti's ACP
membership to export products to ACP countries, he said.
Oudine also stated that Egypt is anxious to obtain private
space at the Free Zone for use as a produce export point to
reach the huge Ethiopian market.
3. (C) Oudine continued that China has expressed interest in
establishing a car-manufacturing facility in this Free Zone.
China is becoming "more aggressive" in Africa broadly, with
200 Chinese companies having organized a trade show in
Ethiopia in 2003, he stated. In his view, the Chinese are
targeting low-income African countries which are more
interested in low-cost goods than expensive high-quality
4. (C) Oudine expects that Turkish and Indian businesses
will also have interest in the free zone. He added that
Jebel Ali in Dubai wants to decentralize its saturated market
and some of its companies will need to be relocated to
Djibouti in order to serve African buyers.
5. (C) Djibouti's aim, Oudine said, is to create an
environment conducive to development of services because it
has no natural resources upon which to rely. It does not
want to be dependent on Ethiopia for revenues, for two
reasons. First, Ethiopia does not share Djibouti's values
and second, a history of thirty years of socialism has made
its countrymen difficult to work with. Djibouti wants to
develop commercial ties with other countries, Oudine
continued, in order to be truly independent. To support that
effort, and boost the activities of the port, he said
Djibouti is drafting a commercial code which will stress
Djibouti's liberal economic policies and its desire not to
impose barriers to trade.
6. (C) Comment: Despite Oudine's optimism, the Port of
Doraleh remains an ambitious government-led project for
Djibouti. Assuming the financing hurdle is overcome, of
great concern for Embassy in the short-term will be the
impact of the proposed port container facility on operations
of existing companies in Djibouti supplying fuel oil for
domestic use, including Exxon-Mobil. We are looking at the
implications of this issue, in direct consultation with
Exxon-Mobil. Of great concern in the long-term will be the
overall economic viability of the project, especially its
Free Zone component, taking into account current and future
economic trends. End comment.