The main objective of the official visit was to exchange views with senior officials in all Timorese government branches and other involved stakeholders and to mobilise their support for the WTO accession process, which has entered a critical phase.

Ambassador Macieira met with President José Ramos-Horta and had follow-up meetings with Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak, the President of the National Parliament Aniceto Longuinhos Guterres Lopes and chairpersons of committees responsible for public finance and economic and development matters. The WTO delegation was accompanied by the Coordinating Minister of Economic Affairs and Chief Negotiator for WTO Accession Joaquim Amaral and his team as well as Ambassador Lourdes Bessa, permanent representative of Timor-Leste in Geneva.

Government officials pledged to ensure the completion of all outstanding work, which includes the finalization of bilateral market access negotiations, the submission of updated documentary inputs and the enactment of the remaining WTO-consistent legislation.   

Ambassador Macieira noted that Timor-Leste's accession process has been ambitious and exemplary, setting a high bar for other WTO accessions. “Timor-Leste, which gained independence in 2002, has demonstrated a strong determination to participate in the multilateral trading system, with a proven track record of successfully overcoming challenges,” said the Working Party chair.

Three cycles of the Working Party on the Accession of Timor-Leste have been held over the last year and a half, the most recent in April this year. During the WTO 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) on 12-16 June, Timor-Leste joined the WTO joint declaration on services domestic regulation as the first acceding least-developed country (LDC). Ambassador Macieira underscored the need to sustain and intensify the work in the coming months to meet the goal of acceding to the WTO in 2023.

Meetings in Dili confirmed Timor-Leste's strong political will to finalize WTO accession, which would complement its on-going efforts to join the Association of South-eastern Asian Nations (ASEAN). On 12 July, the chair and the Secretariat participated in the High-Level Conference on WTO/ASEAN Accession of Timor-Leste, which explored synergies and complementarities between the two accession processes.

The WTO delegation also met with representatives of civil society, private sector and academia, who expressed their full support for the government's efforts regarding WTO and ASEAN accessions. “There is a strong national consensus on WTO accession,” said Ambassador Macieira.

The chair also moderated a consultation meeting with development partners and donors. Representatives from Australia, the European Union, Indonesia, New Zealand and the United States attended in person, while other partners attended virtually, including from Geneva.

Maika Oshikawa, Director of the WTO Accessions Division, recalled the substantive progress achieved thus far, which made Timor-Leste one of the fastest moving accessions. This would not have been possible without the technical assistance continuously provided by members and development partners. She further noted that additional assistance is required to ensure the finalization of the accession process in 2023 and the successful integration of Timor-Leste in the multilateral trading system in the post-accession phase.

The WTO Secretariat delivered a series of technical sessions for Timorese government officials, aimed at closing gaps on the remaining technical work in Timor-Leste's accession. The legislative state of play and the negotiating inputs for the next Working Party cycle were reviewed. In addition, issue-specific sessions with the participation of experts looked at the various areas related to the accession process, such as trading rights, customs valuation, trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights (TRIPS), agriculture, sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures, and the Information Technology Agreement (ITA).

Coinciding with the visit, Timor-Leste signed on 15 July two bilateral market access agreements with Australia and New Zealand, which were officially deposited with the WTO Secretariat. Timor-Leste continues negotiations with seven WTO members, aiming to conclude them before the end of 2022.





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