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EU and Timor-Leste sign deal on WTO accession

Timor-Leste took a major step closer to WTO accession today. The EU and Timor-Leste signed a deal concluding their bilateral market access negotiations on services and goods as part of Timor-Leste’s accession process to the World Trade Organization.

The EU is a major supporter of Timor-Leste’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), which is expected to make a lasting contribution to Timor-Leste’s economic reform and sustainable development. For the EU, the WTO remains at the heart of the multilateral trading system that underpins open and fair trade, and its expansion is to the benefit of all members.

As part of the accession process, WTO accession candidates need to sign bilateral deals with interested WTO members that include both agriculture and tariffs on non-agricultural products, and also cover several service sectors. The commitments undertaken in these bilateral deals will apply to all WTO Members once the candidate’s accession is final.

The bilateral EU-Timor-Leste deal provides for lower tariffs for goods and for opening up services markets once Timor-Leste joins the WTO. These commitments will then be embodied in the future Protocol of Accession of Timor-Leste to the WTO.

The European Union also recently signed an agreement with the government in Timor-Leste to support the country in the WTO, ASEAN and Pacific interim EPA accession negotiations. This action under the 11th European Development Fund (period 2014 – 2020) will benefit Timor-Leste in the next three years.


WTO bilateral negotiations are still ongoing with other members, such as Indonesia and the United States.

Timor-Leste applied for membership of the WTO in 2016 and the first Working Party meeting took place in December 2020.The multilateral negotiations on additional trade related areas (such as legislation, technical barriers to trade (TBT), sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS) etc.) are still ongoing. The fifth Working Party on the Accession of Timor-Leste to the WTO is scheduled to take place in Geneva on 20 April 2023.

Timor-Leste has reiterated its commitment to maintain the momentum in the negotiations to reach the goal of WTO accession in 2023, which it considers a strategic priority. In parallel to the WTO accession negotiations, Timor-Leste is negotiating with the aim of acceding to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and to the interim Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the EU and the Pacific states.

The EU is Timor-Leste’s sixth-biggest export partner and ninth-biggest import partner. The total value of EU goods exported to Timor-Leste in 2022 was €19.7 million, while imports from Timor-Leste amounted to €6.5 million. Timor-Leste mainly supplies the EU market with food and live animals. The main EU exports to Timor-Leste are food and live animals, machinery and transport equipment, beverages and tobacco, and chemicals and related products.

Economic and trade relations between the EU and Timor-Leste develop in the framework of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement and are notably governed by the EU’s 'Everything But Arms' initiative, under which all imports other than arms and ammunitions to the EU from Least Developed Countries (LDC) like Timor-Leste are duty-free and quota-free.

Source: European Commission

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