Timor-Leste President Jose Ramos-Horta (left) shake hands with Indonesian President Joko Widodo during their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia on July 19, 2022. (ACHMAD IBRAHIM / AP)
BOGOR, Indonesia – Timor-Leste President Jose Ramos-Horta said on Tuesday during a visit to Indonesia that he hoped to boost trade ties between the countries and seal a decades-long bid by his nation to join the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) next year.
Ramos-Horta met his counterpart Joko Widodo on his first state visit to neighboring Indonesia since he was elected in April for a second stint as president.
Timor-Leste as part of Southeast Asia has fulfilled many of the requirements necessary for a functioning economy and democracy so… will be a productive member of ASEAN.
Jose Ramos-Horta, Timor-Leste President
He previously served as president of Timor-Leste between 2007 and 2012.
"Timor-Leste as part of Southeast Asia has fulfilled many of the requirements necessary for a functioning economy and democracy so… will be a productive member of ASEAN," he said, noting he hoped his young country could join the group when Indonesia takes over the presidency next year.
Timor-Leste, which applied for ASEAN membership in 2011, currently holds observer status.
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Speaking at the presidential palace in Bogor, south of Jakarta, the Indonesian president said his country had invested $818 million in Timor-Leste, mainly in energy, banking and communication businesses.
"We've agreed to increase trade between both countries," said Widodo, who is widely known as Jokowi.
Official Indonesia data shows trade between the countries was worth around $250 million last year.
Heavily dependent on revenue from oil and gas, the half-island nation of 1.3 million people has grappled with diversifying its economy and reducing high rates of poverty.
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Ramos-Horta said he welcomed deepening trade ties with Jakarta and Indonesia's commitment to Timor-Leste joining the 10-member ASEAN regional grouping.