New Zealand has a warm relationship with Timor-Leste that has traditionally focused on military and police support and on development assistance. As the security situation has improved, our military and police elements have decreased and development assistance has become the central element of our relationship. New Zealand’s trade relationship with Timor-Leste is also growing and broadening, although from a low base. There have been several recent high-level visits between Timor-Leste and New Zealand.
Trade and economic relationship
Bilateral trade is small in volume and value, worth NZ$2.61 million in the year to December 2014 (almost double the NZ$1.32 million in 2013). Exports from New Zealand are mainly meat (53%) and dairy (18%). The principal import is coffee (99%).
New Zealand Trade (year ended Dec 2012)
NZ’s 163rd largest trading partner – total two-way trade NZ$2.61 million
Since the 1999 referendum that led to the restoration of independence, New Zealand Defence and Police personnel have been deployed to Timor Leste in significant numbers. Following the withdrawal of the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) in December 2012 and the withdrawal of the International Stabilization Force (ISF) in March 2013, New Zealand’s Defence and Police presence has reduced significantly. New Zealand now has five NZDF personnel in Timor-Leste under the Mutual Assistance Programme (MAP), two New Zealand Police officers permanently based in-country under the bilateral Timor-Leste Community Policing Programme, as well as New Zealand-based Police mentors who visit Timor-Leste several times a year.
New Zealand is committed to supporting Timor-Leste’s growth into a stable, democratic and prosperous nation. Total aid flow will be approximately NZ$14.6 million in the 2014/2015 financial year. Development cooperation with Timor-Leste is underpinned by the Strategic Framework for Development (2012-15) signed in September 2012, with three focus areas: private sector development, education sector, and security and justice.
Current private sector activities include: rehabilitation of coffee plantations (soon to be expanded to include cacao); financial literacy and business management training to SMEs; support to micro and small enterprise development in the cattle, horticulture and tourism sectors; an aquaculture development project; and an infrastructure skills training project to help build skills and employment opportunities in the road construction sector.
In the education sector: a new major national ECE support programme; up to 15 tertiary scholarships per year for study in New Zealand; English language training in New Zealand for up to 12 Timorese officials per year; and support for an internship programme for recent graduates.
In security and justice: community policing; and support to the Timorese human rights institution.top of page
Regional and multilateral links
Timor-Leste is part of the geographical region of Southeast Asia. It has applied for ASEAN membership and a committee has been established to consider this application. Indonesia is a strong advocate for Timor-Leste's ASEAN aspirations. Post-independence, Indonesia's relationship with Timor-Leste has improved significantly. Indonesia is now the largest source of imports into Timor-Leste and is undertaking large contracts to rebuild Timor-Leste's infrastructure.
Recent Timor-Leste high-level visits to New Zealand
A brief transit visit in September 2014 by Prime Minister Gusmao following the Small Island Developing States Conference in Samoa.
A visit in May 2014 by the Vice Minister of Justice, HE Mr Ivo Jorge Valente to study New Zealand’s youth justice processes.
A visit in April 2014 by the Secretary of State for the Support and Promotion of the Private Sector, HE Ms Veneranda Lemos to promote increased two-way trade and investment.
State visit by President of the Republic HE Taur Matan Ruak accompanied by the First Lady Madame Isabel da Costa Ferreira, and Minister of State and of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation HE Dr José Luís Guterres - 24 to 27 June 2013.
Minister of State and of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation HE José Luís Guterres transit visit in New Zealand, and a bilateral meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Hon Murray McCully, in the margins of the 2012 PIF Meetings in Rarotonga, Cook Islands - August 2012
Prime Minister HE Xanana Gusmão & Kirsty-Sword Gusmão, Foreign Minister HE Zacarias Albano da Costa, Secretary of State for Defence Julio Tomas Pinto, and senior officials attended the Pacific Island Forum & Rugby World Cup Opening - August 2011
Recent New Zealand high level visits to Timor-Leste
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon Murray McCully, as a guest of the Summit of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP), July 2014.
Visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon Murray McCully, to Timor-Leste with an accompanying trade delegation – September 2012
Visit of 3 New Zealand Members of Parliament (Dr Jackie Blue, National; Charles Chauvel, Labour; Jan Logie, Greens) as part of the Australia/New Zealand Parliamentary Visit to Timor-Leste organised by The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria - September 2012
Visit of 5 New Zealand Members of Parliament (Jacqueline Dean, National; Dr Kennedy Graham, Greens; Barbara Stewart, NZ First; Hon Phil Goff, Labour; William Lindsay Tisch, National) as official observers of the Timor Leste 2012 Parliamentary Election - July 2012
Governor-General of New Zealand, HE Lieutenant General The Right Honourable Sir Jerry Mateparae, GNZM, QSO - May 2012