BOGOR, Indonesia – East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta said on Tuesday during a visit to Indonesia that he hoped to strengthen bilateral commercial ties and finalize his country’s decades-long effort to join the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) next year.
Ramos-Horta met with his counterpart Joko Widodo during his first state visit to neighboring Indonesia after being elected for a second term as president in April.
He formerly served as the president of East Timor, popularly known as Timor Leste, from 2007 until 2012.
“Timor Leste, as part of Southeast Asia, has completed many of the prerequisites essential for a functional economy and democracy, so… will be a constructive member of ASEAN,” he said, adding that he hoped his youthful country would join the organization when Indonesia assumed the president next year.
East Timor, which requested for ASEAN membership in 2011, is now an observer member.
The Indonesian president stated at the presidential palace in Bogor, south of Jakarta, that his country has invested $818 million in East Timor, primarily in energy, banking, and communication sectors.
“We’ve decided to promote commerce between both countries,” Widodo, also known as Jokowi, said.
According to official Indonesia figures, trade between the two countries was valued roughly $250 million last year.
The half-island nation of 1.3 million people, which is heavily reliant on oil and gas revenue, has struggled to diversify its economy and reduce high rates of poverty.
East Timor earned full independence in 2002, after a long and violent fight to end an often ruthless occupation.
Ramos-Horta, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end the conflict peacefully, said he welcomed stronger trade links with Jakarta as well as Indonesia’s commitment to East Timor joining the 10-member ASEAN regional organization.