President of the Republic’s

Opening Statement

By President J Ramos-Horta

At a Round Table on Post-Accession

Abu Dhabi, Sunday, 25 February 2023

Your Excellency President of the National Parliament of Timor-Leste, Madame Fernanda Lay

Your Excellency Deputy Prime Minister of Timor-Leste, Mr. Francisco Kalbuadi Lay,

Your Excellency Ambassador Xiangchen Zhang, Deputy Director-General,

and Director of Accessions Division, Madam Maika Oshikawa-san;

Ministers, Members of TL National Parliament,

Excellency Mr Bernardo Ivo Cruz,

Secretary of State

for International Trade and Foreign Investment, of Portugal,

Ambassadors,

Warmest greetings from Timor-Leste to all participants present in this room and virtually.

Welcome to the Roundtable

TIMOR-LESTE’S WTO MEMBERSHIP: CHARTING A DIVERSIFIED, RESILIENT, INCLUSIVE AND SUSTAINABLE ECONOMY THROUGH GLOBAL ECONOMIC INTEGRATION.

A very warm welcome to the high-level Delegation from Members and Development Partners joining us today, and the entourage from Timor-Leste led by the President of our National Parliament, Mme Fernanda Lay, and by Vice Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister of Economic Affairs, Excellency Francisco Kalbuadi Lay.

We are very impressed by the high-level participation by Members, clearly reflecting ongoing interest in the post-accession of Timor-Leste. I am grateful to esteemed Members for setting aside time to participate in this forum.

We of Timor-Leste, Asia’s newest country, are believers in the Multilateral Trading System and welcome any and every regional mechanism or institution that upholds multilateralism, enhances free trade, unimpeded movement of goods and services across the oceans and air, and contribute to a more equitable world.

Timor-Leste gained Observer status in December 2016, and thus began our journey towards WTO Membership. Tomorrow will mark a historic moment for us, whereby WTO Members will officially adopt Timor-Leste’s accession package, with a signatory event highlighting on Timor-Leste’s official membership in the Organization, a major step towards trade liberalization, integration in the global economy, access to international markets.

Membership to the WTO leverages the on-going improvements in our national infrastructure investments, and likewise investments in human capital and administrative capacity, with acceleration of growth and diversification.

Since the Working Party first meeting in October 2020, we have demonstrated our commitment to conform with WTO rules. Likewise, progress would not have been possible without Members and Partners’ support, flexibility and pragmatism, and large amounts of patience and faith in us.

We acknowledge the tremendous engagement of WTO Secretariat, starting with my dear friend Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. We met in, and conversed, in our different functions over the years. I was always deeply impressed by her courage and unparalleled leadership qualities. Your steadfast support, Dear DG, and endless patience of your staff, combined with the leadership of our Deputy Prime Minister Francisco K Lay and his team, ensured that this accession is happening at this MC13.

I am particularly pleased that our WTO accession is happening in Abu Dhabi, birthplace of Sheihk Zaed, who dreamed of a country that would be a beacon of human fraternity, and in pursuing this dream he unified the seven Emirates and founded the United Arab Emirates . And it was here that the historic Declaration on Human Fraternity, co-authored by His Holiness Papa Francisco and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Cairo Prof Dr Ammad Tayyeb, were signed, on 19th October 2019. The dream of Sheikh Zaed, his legacy, is continuing with His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, President of United Arab Emirates.

Similarly, I would also like to mention the supportive role played by Deputy Director-General Zhang Xiangchen who has attended all the Working Party meetings since 2021. I would also like to thank the special presence of DDG Zhang in today’s occasion despite his very busy agenda in these coming days. I would also like to acknowledge Madam Maika Oshikawa and Madam Anna Varyanik of the Accessions Division for their endless patience and empathy, long hours in supporting Timor-Leste since the beginning of the accession process.

Our accession ti WTO would not be have been celebrated today without their endless dedication.

My special gratitude goes to the Working Party Chair, Embaixador Rui Macieira, for his truly generous and wise leadership in leading this process since TL’s first Working Party Meeting in 2020. Muito obrigado Senhor Embaixador, Amigo Rui Macieira.

And needless to say, some words of recognition of Timor-Leste Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Ambassador Lurdes Bessa for her tireless leadership and hard work and of her dedicated staff.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today’s event is held on the occasion of the formal action by WTO Ministers on the WTO Accession of Timor-Leste at the 13th WTO Ministerial Conference, where the objective of this Round Table is to: celebrate the WTO Accession of Timor-Leste, reflect on TL’s 9accession pathway; and, most importantly to review TL’s Post-Accession Implementation Strategy, to maximize benefits from WTO membership.

His Excellency Vice Prime Minister – the Chief Negotiator of TL Accession to the WTO, Mr. Kalbuadi Lay will deliver a brief presentation on TL’s Post-Accession Strategy document.

Timor-Leste’s accession, by itself, has brought great benefits for the country, and we expect that further benefits will be seen during its membership in the organization. For us, becoming a member is essential to unleash the potential of our economy in several sectors.

Trade is an engine for development, and Timor-Leste has a huge potential that is yet to be explored. As a full member, we will be able to diversify our economy, become a part of the value chain of global economies, to improve the quality and the wellbeing of our people.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.

In closing, we continue to count on Members and Partners support during the post-accession process. More tailored support will be required to expedite the necessary domestic reforms to harmonize with the WTO rules and regulations.

As a newly joined Member, we will continue to learn from Members with a hope to bring additional values and contribute to further strengthening the cooperation between our nations.

J Ramos-Horta