Map Credit: U.S. State Department
FROM: U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Timor-Leste became an independent nation in 2002, following over four hundred years of Portuguese colonization, twenty-four years of Indonesian occupation, and three years of United Nations transitional administration. The country faces the challenge of building a strong democracy and vibrant economy against a background of still-fragile institutions and limited human capital. The United States and Timor-Leste enjoy excellent bilateral relations based on shared interests and values, and the United States is committed to strengthening and deepening this partnership.
U.S. Assistance to Timor-Leste
The United States has a large bilateral development assistance program and is also a major donor member to a number of multilateral agencies active in Timor-Leste such as the United Nations, Asian Development Bank, and World Bank. U.S. assistance focuses on bolstering stability by strengthening the foundations of good governance, accelerating economic growth, improving the health of the Timorese people, and supporting the professionalization of the Timorese security forces.
Bilateral Economic Relations
Timor-Leste is one of the least developed countries in the world and there is little direct trade with the United States. The economy is dependent on government spending (financed by petroleum revenues) and, to a lesser extent, assistance from international donors including the United States. Private sector development has lagged due to human capital shortages, infrastructure weakness, an incomplete legal system, and an inefficient regulatory environment. The U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Government of Timor-Leste have signed an Investment Incentive Agreement. The major U.S. investor in Timor-Leste is ConocoPhillips; its Bayu-Undan gas condensate development is located in the Timor Sea joint petroleum development area between Timor-Leste and Australia. The second largest export is coffee, which generates about $10 million a year for farmers. Starbucks Coffee Company is a major purchaser of Timorese coffee.
Timor-Leste's Membership in International Organizations
Timor-Leste's foreign policy places high priority on its relationships with Indonesia, Australia, other neighbors, and friendly countries and donors. Timor-Leste and the United States belong to many of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum, Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, International Monetary Fund, and World Bank. Timor-Leste applied for ASEAN membership in 2011, but an ASEAN decision to admit the nation is still pending.
The U.S. Ambassador to Timor-Leste is Judith R. Fergin;