History of the U.S. and Timor Leste

  1. U.S. Assistance to Timor-Leste
  2. History of the U.S. and Timor Leste


Timor-Leste became an independent nation in 2002, following over four hundred years of Portuguese colonization, twenty-four years of Indonesian occupation, and three years of United Nations transitional administration. The country faces the challenge of building a strong democracy and vibrant economy against a background of still-fragile institutions and limited human capital. The United States and Timor-Leste enjoy excellent bilateral relations based on shared interests and values, and the United States is committed to strengthening and deepening this partnership.

U.S. Assistance to Timor-Leste

The United States has a large bilateral development assistance program and is also a major donor member to a number of multilateral agencies active in Timor-Leste such as the United Nations, Asian Development Bank, and World Bank. U.S. assistance focuses on bolstering stability by strengthening the foundations of good governance, accelerating economic growth thus creating jobs for the rapidly growing population, improving the health of the Timorese people, and supporting the professionalization of the Timorese security forces.

Bilateral Economic Relations

Timor-Leste is one of the least developed countries in the world and there is little direct trade with the United States. The economy is dependent on government spending (financed by petroleum revenues) and, to a lesser extent, assistance from international donors including the United States. Private sector development has lagged due to human capital shortages, infrastructure weakness, an incomplete legal system, and an inefficient regulatory environment. The U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Government of Timor-Leste have signed an Investment Incentive Agreement. The major U.S. investor in Timor-Leste is ConocoPhillips; its Bayu-Undan gas condensate development is located in the Timor Sea joint petroleum development area between Timor-Leste and Australia. The second largest export is coffee, which generates between $15 and $32 million a year. Starbucks Coffee Company is a major purchaser of Timorese coffee.

Timor-Leste’s Membership in International Organizations

Timor-Leste’s foreign policy places high priority on its relationships with Indonesia, Australia, other neighbors, and friendly countries and donors, most notably the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP) and member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Timor-Leste began its two year presidency of the CPLP in 2014 by prioritizing economic integration between member states, as well as joint exploration and production of oil and gas. One of its top foreign policy objectives is to join ASEAN. Timor-Leste applied for ASEAN membership in 2011, but an ASEAN decision to admit the nation is still pending.

Timor-Leste and the United States belong to many of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, ASEAN Regional Forum, Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, International Monetary Fund, and World Bank.

Bilateral Representation

The current Ambassador is C. Kevin Blackstone, who was preceded by Ambassadors Kathleen M. Fitzpatrick, Karen Stanton, Judith Fergin, Hans Klemm, and Grover Rees III.

Timor-Leste maintains an embassy in the United States at 4201 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008 (telephone: 202-966-3202).

More information about Timor-Leste is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here:

Department of State Timor-Leste Country Page
Department of State Key Officers List
CIA World Factbook Timor-Leste Page
U.S. Embassy
USAID Timor-Leste Page
Human Rights Reports
International Religious Freedom Reports
Trafficking in Persons Reports
Millennium Challenge Corporation: Timor-Leste
Narcotics Control Reports
Investment Climate Statements
U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Trade Statistics
ravel Information