Thailand is eagerly anticipating the economic advantages that will come with Timor-Leste’s inclusion as the 11th member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), specifically in terms of exports and investments. During the 42nd ASEAN Leaders Summit held in Indonesia, the roadmap for Timor-Leste’s full membership was endorsed. This roadmap outlines three key areas—politics and security, economy, and social and cultural ties—that Timor-Leste must address in order to achieve full ASEAN membership.
Having been granted observer status in November 2022, Timor-Leste has already been actively participating in ASEAN meetings and summits. However, in order to gain full membership, the country must fulfill several criteria, including the ratification of 66 economic cooperation agreements among ASEAN members. These agreements include important trade frameworks such as the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement, ASEAN Trade in Services Agreement, and ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement.
The accession of Timor-Leste to ASEAN is expected to expand the manufacturing base of the group and provide Thai exports with duty-free access to the country. Moreover, Thai companies will have opportunities to invest in Timor-Leste’s infrastructure, particularly in sectors like tourism, where the country aims to attract 200,000 foreign tourists per year by 2030.
While Timor-Leste’s market size may be relatively small, its growing economy presents a demand for agricultural products from Thailand, such as rice, processed seafood, canned fruits, rubber products, and beverages. Additionally, Thai investors can explore opportunities in sectors like restaurants, spas, massage services, and auto parts businesses in Timor-Leste.
Thailand and Timor-Leste have enjoyed diplomatic and trade relations for over two decades. In 2022, bilateral trade between the two countries reached US$52.50 million—a significant increase of 349.31% compared to the previous year. This substantial growth highlights the strong economic ties and potential for further cooperation between Thailand and Timor-Leste.
As Timor-Leste progresses towards full ASEAN membership, both countries are poised to benefit from enhanced trade opportunities, increased investments, and strengthened economic cooperation within the region.