Yesterday, a senior official at the Ministry of Foreign affairs announced that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has recently endorsed a roadmap that outlines the steps for Timor-Leste becoming its 11th member. This ASEAN membership move is expected to benefit Thailand economically by expanding trade and investment opportunities between the two nations.
Timor-Leste initially submitted its request for full ASEAN membership in 2011. The 41st ASEAN summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, agreed in principle to accept this request in November last year, while also granting Timor-Leste observer status. The recent 42nd ASEAN Summit held in Indonesia endorsed the roadmap, which covers political, security, economic, and socio-cultural aspects.
To obtain full ASEAN membership, Timor-Leste is required to sign 66 key agreements, including the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA) and the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement (ACIA). It will also need to sign additional agreements within two years and join discussions on free trade agreements between ASEAN and its partners within five years after attaining full membership, Bangkok Post reported.
The director-general of the Trade Negotiations Department, Auramon Supthaweethum, stated that with Timor-Leste joining as the 11th member, ASEAN’s market would grow to 673.8 million people. Timor-Leste’s ASEAN membership is expected to boost economic ties between the two nations, in addition to providing significant tax benefits in trade for Thailand.
Although Timor-Leste is a smaller nation, its economy is growing and is interested in Thai imports. This provides Thai businesses with excellent investment opportunities in the emerging market. Auramon Supthaweethum encourages Thai investors to study this new market.
“Thailand and Timor-Leste have had diplomatic relations for over 21 years and have maintained good economic ties. Upon Timor-Leste’s ASEAN membership achievement, bilateral economic relations will deepen, and trade and investment opportunities will expand,” she said.
Currently, Timor-Leste ranks as Thailand’s 129th trade partner, with a trade value of US$52.5 million (1.8 billion baht) last year, representing an increase of 349.31%. Thai exports to Timor-Leste amounted to US$14.87 million, primarily consisting of automobiles and auto parts, rice, petroleum products, and canned and processed seafood. Thailand imported US$37.63 million worth of goods from Timor-Leste, including crude oil, plants and plant-based products, paper, and electric appliances and parts.
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