Timor-Leste expects to join ASEAN by 2023

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Dili, 22 April 2022 (TDI): East Timor’s President-elect Jose Ramos-Horta stated on Thursday that his nation expects to join ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) in 2023 when Indonesia would be the bloc’s chair.

Ramos-Horta will take his oath as the new President on the 20th of May, 2022. The event would be significant as the 20th of May is celebrated as Timor-Leste’s Restoration of Independence Day. On this day in 2002, the country gained independence from Portugal’s 26 years of occupation.

The 72 years old Nobel Peace Prize winner, Jose Ramos-Horta won the election with a land sliding victory.

This would be Ramos-Horta’s second term in office. He also previously served from 2007 to 2012 as the president of the country.

Timor-Leste is the youngest country in Southeast Asia. The new president benefited from the support of Xanana Gusmao the first president of Timor-Leste and the leader of the National Congress Of The Reconstruction of Timor-Leste who is generally known as a Kingmaker. According to the newly elected President, his return to the presidential race after retirement was to save the constitutional needs of the country blaming constitutional violations by the outgoing President.

Challenges for the new President:

The new president would be facing difficulties in bringing his nation out of poverty and economic diversification. Asian Development Bank estimates that 41.8 % population in East Timor is living below the poverty line and UNICEF said the literacy rate is only 58%. Timor-Leste is still suffering from the impacts of pandemic covid-19, besides poor governance and lack of accountability and transparency. The new government has to face many new challenges to meet the expectations of the nation. The previous governments tried to help the country reduce poverty and build develop a sustainable economy to increase the literacy rate and improve health facilities by enacting National Development Plan to collaborate with foreign agencies and international communities. But a small fragment of development was seen to accomplish their goals.

Singapore and Laos have objections to Timor-Leste’s membership in ASEAN claiming that it has not developed enough yet to join other countries. They also shared that they’re pushing Timor to qualify the obligations to become a member

Benefits of ASEAN membership for Timor-Leste:

The newly elected president of Timor-Leste officially applied for the membership in ASEAN (Association For The East Asian Nations) in his first tenure in 2011 and spoke about the importance of a potential membership which he believes would enable the country to play a more significant role in the regional and global politics and would protect its own country. Additionally, there are several reasons for Timor-Leste to get membership in ASEAN.
Timor-Leste will benefit from the ASEAN development integrated programs which are aimed at reducing the development gap between its member states. They will provide assistance for Timor-Leste’s national development.

The membership will also enable Timor-Leste to have a more significant presence on the national and international political stage. And the country could benefit in the area of trade, security, and stability which could flourish its bilateral and multilateral ties.

Timor-Leste’s application was recently discussed in the 11th meeting of the ASEAN coordinating committee via teleconference, based on the three pillar agenda of ASEAN that is political security, economic, and socio-cultural communities cooperation.

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