Timor-Leste Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao paid a three-day visit to Vietnam this month to promote bilateral relations. In an email interview, Michael Leach, associate professor of politics and public policy at Australia’s Swinburne University researching Timor-Leste politics, explained Timor-Leste’s foreign policy priorities and its growing role in its region.
WPR: Which countries are Timor-Leste's closest regional partners?
Michael Leach: Indonesia and Australia will remain Timor-Leste’s most important regional partners for the foreseeable future. Indonesia is Timor-Leste’s largest trading partner, though bilateral trade is overwhelmingly skewed in favor of Indonesian exports of essential and consumer goods. Despite minor tensions over small unresolved stretches of their land border, Indonesia continues to be the key supporter and sponsor of Timor-Leste’s predominant foreign policy ambition of accession to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).