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8

Basic Info

Timor-Leste is located at the easternmost tip of the Nusa Tenggara Islands in Southeast Asia, with West Timor of Indonesia to its west, and across the Timor Sea to Australia in the south. It has a land area of about 15,000 square kilometres and a population of about 1.3 million. There is only a small Chinese population in Timor-Leste. The capital, Dili, is located on Timor Island. It is a deep-water port and the national political, economic and cultural centre of the country.

Investment Environment

Timor-Leste is ready for a revitalisation. With the steady implementation of the national medium- and long-term strategic development plan and a large oil reserve, it will be possible to enter a period of rapid development in the future, which will entail more construction projects. The country is supported by its own funds and multiple funds from the international community. Many countries have implemented tariff-free treatment for products from Timor-Leste, which has created good opportunities for enterprises and individuals to invest and start businesses.

According to the World Bank’s report on business environment, Doing Business 2020, in terms of starting up businesses, Timor-Leste ranks 68th, which is the country’s best ranking among all indicators. There are only 6 procedures for starting a business, and the cost accounts for 0.7% of per capita income. The minimum paid-up capital accounts for 0.3% of per capita income, and takes an average of 13 days.

Timor-Leste’s economy is dominated by industry, with industrial added value accounting for 56.7% of GDP. About 10% of the workforce is engaged in industrial production, including textiles, drinking water, and coffee processing. The second economic pillar is the service industry, which is highly concentrated in the capital Dili. Due to the influx of foreign capital, service industries like trade, catering and hotels have achieved rapid development. Agriculture is also an important part of the country’s economy, with more than 50% of the population engaged in agricultural activities.

Trade Overview

Timor-Leste’s main export destinations are Indonesia, the United States, Germany, and China. The main export goods are food and beverages (including coffee). The main origins for imports are Indonesia, China, Singapore, Hong Kong (China), and the main imported goods are fuel and lubricants, food and beverages.

China’s exports to Timor-Leste mainly include electrical parts, cement, iron and steel products, ceramic products, textiles, and furniture. Goods imported from Timor-Leste mainly include electrical parts, agricultural products, wood products.

Economic Indicators

2017(a)

2018(a)

2019(a)

2020(b)

Surface area (sq. km)

14,609

14,609

14,609

14,609

Population (million)

1.3

1.3(b)

1.4

GDP (US$ billion)

1.61

1.57

1.67

-1.5

Real GDP growth rate (%)

-3.8

-0.8

3.5(b)

4.0

Total exports (US$ million)

16.7

24.6

26.0

Total imports (US$ million)

-681.1

-613.1

-592.5

Consumer Price Index (%)

0.6

2.4(b)

0.6(b)

-0.3

Current account balance (US$ million)

-339.0

-191.1

134.0

1.1

Exchange Rate

Timor-Leste does not have its own currency and mainly uses the US dollar and Indonesian rupiah

Remarks: (a) actual value; (b) estimated value of Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU); (c) predicted value of Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).
Source: Country Report May 2020 (Timor-Leste) by the British Economist Intelligence Unit

 

Main export and import destinations

Main export destinations (2018)

Proportion in total exports (%)

Indonesia

25.4

USA

22.3

Germany

13.6

China

8.5

Others

30.2

Main source of import (2018)

Proportion in total imports (%)

Indonesia

31.8

China

15.1

Singapore

13.1

Hong Kong (China)

10.1

Others

29.9

Source: International Trade Center (ITC)

Main export and import goods

Major export goods (2018)

Proportion in total exports (%)

Fossil fuels, mineral oil and its distilled products; bituminous substances; mineral wax

59.2

Coffee, tea, mate tea and spices

27.4

Oil seeds and oil-containing fruits; miscellaneous grains, seeds and fruits; industrial or medicinal plants; straw and grass root feed

3.9

Electrical machinery and equipment and their parts; recorders and sound speakers, television image and sound recorders and speakers, and parts and accessories

2.4

Others

7.1

Major import goods (2018)

% Of total imports

Vehicles other than railway or tramway vehicles and their parts and accessories

10.2

Cereals

7.3

Ships and floating structures

7.0

Electrical machinery and equipment and their parts; recorders and sound speakers, television image and sound recorders and speakers, and parts and accessories

5.3

Others

70.2

Source: International Trade Center (ITC)

Statistics on the trade between Mainland China and Timor-Leste (US$ 10,000)

Year

Total trade

Total exports*

Total imports**

2019

16,751.0

14,294.6

2,456.4

2018

13,550.3

13,248.9

301.4

2017

13,395.6

13,259.7

135.9

2016

16,448.5

16,419.4

29.2

2015

10,667.9

10,595.4

72.5

Remarks: * Value of goods exported to Timor-Leste from Mainland China; **Value of goods imported from Timor-Leste to Mainland China
Source of Data: General Administration of Customs of the People’s Republic of China

Statistics on the trade between Macao and Timor-Leste (US$) (1 USD»8 MOP)

Year

Total trade

Total exports*

Total imports**

2019

2018

20,356.5

20,356.5

2017

2016

2015

Remarks: * Value of goods exported to Timor-Leste from Macao; **Value of goods imported from Timor-Leste to Macao.
Source: Statistics and Census Service (DSEC), Macao SAR Government
Source:

  • Country (region) guide for foreign investment co-operation (Timor-Leste)by the Ministry of Commerce the People’s Republic of China
  • General Administration of Customs of the People’s Republic of China
  • SinoMaps Press
  • Statistics and Census Service (DSEC), Macao SAR Government
  • International Trade Center (ITC)
  • Country Report May 2020 (Timor-Leste) by the British Economist Intelligence Unit
  • Doing Business 2020 by the World Bank

Updated in May 2020.