In 2006/2007 the Ethiopian government (GoE) and different NGOs had a highly publicized dispute with Starbucks over trademarking Ethiopian coffee brands. As this wikileaks cable puts it, Starbucks feared “that Ethiopia would eventually charge a fee to distribute and sell the country’s coffee beans if it were granted the trademarks” by the USPTO. At the time it had appeared that negative publicity had forced Starbucks to drop its opposition to the government’s efforts. The truth was that in an effort to stop the GOE, Oxfam and others, the company recast the matter as a government trade dispute and got the help of the the US embassy in Addis Ababa. Starbucks wanted the US government to “educate Ethiopia on the merits of a certification process” rather than pursuing trademarks; a position which the embassy endorses in the same cable. The ability of Starbucks to escalate matters and move the debate out of the public sphere shows the lopsided relationship between African states and western corporations. More on the coffee dispute and its resolution can be read from the Poor Farmer & Coffee Politics blog (here and here).
Here is an interesting cable from Wikileaks in which Bereket tries to convince Huddleston (the then chargé) that someone needs to do something to stop congress from embarrassing EPRDF. The one line summaries of Bereket’s statements are humorous enough – “you give me one rose, but many thorns”, “why I am pouting”, “show me you love me … or else.” Bereket harps on that the regime has always done what the US wanted and why, oh why, are they not getting enough love? At least Meles’s communications convey some level of independence from the US (an example here). Huddleston did later write an editorial in the New York Times that argued against congressional action after leaving her post in Addis.
The cable also highlights the active role that the embassy played in the establishment of the CUDP. In another cable Meles suggests that donors provide financial support to the new CUDP (see #6).
From Measure of Doubt
A considerable number of cables from Addis have been released on 8/24, 8/25 and 8/26. These releases cover the period of the 2005 unrest and the CUD trials among other things.