Timor-Leste Keen to Become Full-fledged ASEAN Member

Timor Leste Prime Minister Rui Maria de Araujo.
Timor Leste Prime Minister Rui Maria de Araujo.

Kuala Lumpur, 03 Ramadan 1437/08 June 2016 (MINA) – Timor-Leste is keen to become a full-fledged member of the ASEAN bloc, which upon completion of economic assessments, will see its entry as the 11th member.

Timor-Leste Prime Minister Rui Maria de Araujo said the country has been through the assessments in the the last five years, with the secretariat now having the final report.

“We expect that the next ASEAN meeting in Laos will discuss the results of the assessments after which we will know when Timor-Leste will be formally accepted into the group,” he told Bernama on the sidelines of the recent World Economic Forum (WEF) on ASEAN 2016 here.

Timor-Leste formally applied to be a member of ASEAN in 2011 after holding observer status for several years, with some member states, including Malaysia, already voicing support for its entry.

In terms of preparation, de Araujo said Timor-Leste been working hard to fulfil all the basic conditions needed to become an official member, including active participation in meetings and interaction with all the 10 member countries.

“We have also established embassies and ambassadors in all the member countries, another condition to be formally accepted as a member.

“These steps have been taken and we are looking forward to hearing the final decision of the ASEAN leaders,” he added.

It was reported that Timor-Leste was taking the necessary steps and processes to comply with ASEAN’s requirements.

These include developing infrastructure to host ASEAN summits and meetings, and establishing a diplomatic presence in all ASEAN capitals.

de Araujo, who took office in 2015, described Timor-Leste as a comparatively young country with 60 per cent of its population under 25 years of age.

“So it is quite a good opportunity for Timor-Leste, as a young country, to be able to participate for the first time at the World Economic Forum on ASEAN 2016,” he said, adding that the country still has to a lot to learn to gain experience.

He added that the two-day WEF was positive for Timor-Leste, as he had thematic discussions with leaders of Malaysia, Indonesia and Cambodia on issues pertaining to blended finance and how to mobilise resources, including financial resources, to support sustainable development.

On bilateral trade with Malaysia, he said it has been growing annually, though on a small scale compared to its higher trade volume with Indonesia, its closest neighbour.

In 2013, bilateral trade between Malaysia and Timor Leste stood at US$21.2 million (RM69.4 million).

de Araujo said Malaysia and Timor-Leste are set to elevate bilateral relations by expanding the current co-operation and exploring opportunities in agriculture as well as the oil and gas sector.

The potential to increase business interactions between both countries is quite high with discussions at the government level, he added.

“We had meetings with the private sector, and one of our ministers has talked to AirAsia on the possibility of establishing a link between KL and Timor-Leste,” de Araujo said, adding that dicussions are still at a very initial stage. (T/R07/R01)

Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)