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China poses alternative to ASEAN membership says Timor-Leste president

José Ramos-Horta says joining ASEAN is harder than “entering heaven” even though last assessment on entering the Association was favourable.

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José Ramos-Horta says joining ASEAN is harder than “entering heaven” even though last assessment on entering the Association was favourable.

ARTICLE BY

PUBLISHED

READING TIME

Less than 1 minute Minutes

UPDATED: 22 Dec 2023, 12:36 am

Timor-Leste’s president José Ramos-Horta said on Thursday that if membership in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) does not move forward, the country will turn to China instead.

“If there are delays in accession, I will go to China to see my friend [Chinese President] Xi Jinping and freeze the process of joining ASEAN because there is life beyond ASEAN,” Ramos-Horta told businesspeople during a meeting at the headquarters of the Portuguese Industrial Association (AIP), held in Lisbon.

Ramos-Horta’s declarations came even though there is a consensus that Timor-Leste would be a part of this regional economic entity that comprises ten Asian countries, and that the president is convinced that this adhesion will be successful, if not next year, then by 2025 at the latest.

“There has been intense work over the last three to five years, they completed the last assessment in June and July [regarding Timor-Leste’s joining], and it was favourable” said Ramos-Horta, explaining that the ideal scenario was for Timor-Leste to join in January next year.

“The ideal scenario was that they would announce the invitation now, and then the official ceremony would be when Indonesia takes over the presidency, in January 2023,” added the head of state, who had recently said that “it is easier to enter heaven than join ASEAN.

Ramos-Horta also highlighted some of the preferential areas in which the country is willing to welcome foreign investment, such as the pharmaceutical, textile, medical and health industries, canning and footwear, in addition to financial services that should be concentrated in BNU-Timor, the subsidiary of the Caixa Geral de Depósitos group.

“It is in our interest that Portugal and the European Union are involved in Timor-Leste, and I was very happy with Spanish companies winning the road concession and other projects so that we are not too dependent on a single country”, he pointed out.

The president of Timor-Leste, José Ramos-Horta, began an official visit to Portugal on Monday, fulfilling the tradition of Portugal being the first country visited by each new Timorese president.

 

UPDATED: 22 Dec 2023, 12:36 am

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