U.S. Relations With Timor-Leste

Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Fact Sheet
July 17, 2018


More information about Timor-Leste is available on the Timor-Leste Country Page and from other Department of State publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet.

U.S.-TIMOR-LESTE RELATIONS

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 significant 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. development assistance is delivered through U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) governance, health, and agricultural programs, year-round rotations of U.S. Navy Seabees, and a growing Peace Corps program. In December 2017, the Millennium Challenge Corporation selected Timor-Leste for compact development and aims to partner with the Timorese government to reduce key drivers of poverty and promote economic growth. U.S. assistance focuses on bolstering stability by strengthening the foundations of good governance, improving the health of the Timorese people, supporting the professionalization of the Timorese security forces, and creating jobs for the rapidly growing and youthful population by accelerating economic growth.

Bilateral Economic Relations

Timor-Leste remains 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 between $15 and $30 million a year. 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, most notably the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP) and member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Timor-Leste began its two year presidency of the CPLP in 2014 by prioritizing economic integration between member states, as well as joint exploration and production of oil and gas. One of its top foreign policy objectives is to join ASEAN. Timor-Leste applied for ASEAN membership in 2011, but an ASEAN decision to admit the nation is still pending. In June 2018, Timor-Leste formally joined the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI), the U.S. government’s signature program to strengthen leadership development and networking among youth in Southeast Asia.

Timor-Leste and the United States belong to many of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, ASEAN Regional Forum, Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, International Monetary Fund, and World Bank.

Bilateral Representation

The U.S. is represented in country by Ambassador Kathleen Fitzpatrick; other principal embassy officials are listed in the Department's Key Officers List.

Timor-Leste maintains an embassy in the United States at 4201 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008 (telephone: 202-966-3202).

More information about Timor-Leste is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here:

Department of State Timor-Leste Country Page
Department of State Key Officers List
CIA World Factbook Timor-Leste Page
U.S. Embassy
USAID Timor-Leste Page
Human Rights Reports
International Religious Freedom Reports
Trafficking in Persons Reports
Millennium Challenge Corporation: Timor-Leste
Narcotics Control Reports
Investment Climate Statements
U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Trade Statistics
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ravel Information