The diplomatic relationship between Ethiopia and the United States, dating back to 1903, was founded on twin pillars of mutual interest. After more than 100 years, we can assess whether either side has achieved its stated or unstated objectives in this relationship. We can assess whether the policies as they were set, and the policies as they were implemented, were suited to those objectives, and we can assess whether either of the two parties or both of the parties — and other nations — have benefited from the relationship.
Although the US at the end of the 19th century had not fully changed its longstanding policy of global isolationism, it wanted to establish a trade relation with an independent African state. Historically, the US had been linked only with Liberia. The rest of Africa was under the yoke of colonialism. Ethiopia had started to gain prominence, especially after the Battle of Adwa (1896), and Western countries recognized the sovereignty of Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s agricultural resources, untapped resources, and potential for foreign business were attractive. Furthermore, there was no colonial power dominating Ethiopia. As an independent country, Ethiopia could sign agreements to grant the US access to products that Ethiopia could provide. The US, therefore, wanted to enter into a trade pact with Ethiopia.
Ethiopia had a keen interest in the United States based on the perception that the US, unlike the European countries, had no colonial ambition and would not threaten Ethiopia’s sovereignty, while the US economic clout and technological advances could be useful to Ethiopia.
Emperor Menelik II, who was suspicious of the motives of European powers, was instrumental in establishing trade relations. He believed such a tie with a powerful independent country would help restrain the activities of those countries that did have a colonial motive.
Ethiopia and the US had good relations under the successors of Emperor Menelik II, especially with Emperor Haile Selassie I. Haile Selassie believed in the US as an ally against aggressors and a partner in economic development. The relationship col-