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.
Timor-Leste became an independent nation on May 20, 2002, following more than four hundred years of Portuguese colonization, twenty-four years of Indonesian occupation, and three years of United Nations transitional administration. The United States established diplomatic relations with Timor-Leste that same day. Since independence, the country has made important strides in strengthening its democratic institutions, but continues to face the challenge of building a vibrant, diversified economy against the background of still-developing 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
U.S. assistance focuses on bolstering stability by strengthening 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. The United States has a significant bilateral development assistance program and is also a major donor to several multilateral agencies active in Timor-Leste, such as the United Nations, Asian Development Bank, and World Bank. U.S. development assistance is delivered primarily through U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in the areas of governance, health governance, ending violence against children and women, tourism development, private sector and economic growth, humanitarian assistance, digital connectivity and agricultural programs. The Peace Corps has a presence throughout the country. Security cooperation with Timor-Leste is strong, including year-round rotations of U.S. Navy Seabees who have completed over 100 humanitarian assistance projects in Timor-Leste since 2009. The Millennium Challenge Corporation and the Government of Timor-Leste are finalizing a five-year dual sector compact program [$420 million] that will address the issues of a high disease burden due to contaminated water and improving the quality of secondary education for students. Since 2018, the U.S Department of Agriculture has implemented a $26 million, five-year McGovern-Dole nutrition and education program and announced Timor-Leste’s eligibility for a potential new five-year project for FY2022.
Bilateral Economic Relations
Timor-Leste remains one of the least developed countries in Asia 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 public spending that crowds out private enterprise, a lack of skilled workers, infrastructure weakness, incomplete legal and land tenure systems, difficulty accessing credit, and an inefficient regulatory environment. The U.S. Development Finance Corporation and the Government of Timor-Leste have signed an Investment Incentive Agreement. The third largest export is coffee, which generates between $15 and $30 million a year. The United States, via USAID, helped establish the coffee industry in Timor-Leste in the 1990s, and today, Starbucks Coffee Company is a major purchaser of Timorese coffee. McCormick spice company purchases Timorese vanilla, cloves, and pepper. The United States supports efforts to diversify the Timorese economy and develop its private sector.
Timor-Leste’s Membership in International Organizations
Timor-Leste’s foreign policy places high priority on relationships with its nearest neighbors, Indonesia and Australia, and other neighbors in the region. Timor-Leste also places a high priority on its relations with friendly countries and donors, most notably the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP), member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the g7+ grouping of fragile and post-conflict states. One of its top foreign policy objectives is to join ASEAN, which the United States supports. Timor-Leste applied for ASEAN membership in 2011, but an ASEAN decision to admit the nation is still pending. In June 2018, the United States included Timor-Leste in Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI), the U.S. Government’s signature program to strengthen leadership development and networking among emerging leaders 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. Timor-Leste also seeks to join the World Trade Organization.
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:
CIA World Factbook Timor-Leste Page
USAID Timor-Leste Page
U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Trade Statistics