Timor-Leste is a country open to foreign trade, which represented 100% of its GDP in 2021 (World Bank, 2023) a decrease of 63% since 2020. Crude petroleum (70.7%) and Petroleum Gas (19.8%) represented more than 90.5% of total exports in 2021 (OEC, 2023). The main non-oil export product is limited to coffee (5.51%), which does not compensate for the bill of food imports. Imports are led by Refined Petroleum (14% of all imports in 2021), Coal briquettes (4.97%), rice (4,7%), Iron structures (3.12%) and cars with 2.67% (OEC, 2023).
According to 2023 figures from OEC, the country's principal import sources in 2021 were China (32.1%), Indonesia (30.6% of total imports), Singapore (12.8%) and Australia (9.2%). Principal export destinations were China (33.5%), Singapore (30.9%), Japan (20.1%) and Malaysia (7.88%). The factors that limit trade include poor infrastructure, weak development of its financial sector, high interest rates in private banks and the lack of a skilled labour force. The country has very few trade barriers and customs duties are low (the average applied tariff rate is 2.5%). Timor-Leste is a member of the IMF, the World Bank and the Asian Developmental Bank, and is currently pursuing negotiations to become a member of the ASEAN.
Timor-Leste has a structural trade deficit. Imports (excluding services) reached 873 million USD in 2021, while exports (in sharp increase from the previous year) were still only 616 million USD, resulting in a reduced trade balance of 257 million USD in 2021 (WTO, World Bank, 2023).
|Foreign Trade Indicators||2017||2018||2019||2020||2021|
|Imports of Goods (million USD)||554||520||591||625||873|
|Exports of Goods (million USD)||23||45||154||264||616|
|Imports of Services (million USD)||316||344||320||209||391|
|Exports of Services (million USD)||77||82||76||33||28|
|Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change)||-9||3||6||11||10|
|Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change)||-39||17||1,051||207||8|
|Trade Balance (million USD)||-664||-589||-566||-510||1,488|
|Foreign Trade (in % of GDP)||58||64||71||85||100|
|Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP)||56||62||49||48||36|
|Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP)||2||3||21||37||64|
Source: WTO – World Trade Organisation ; World Bank - Latest available data.
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|0.1 bn USD of services exported in 2018|
|Personal travelPersonal travel||64.17%|
|Business travelBusiness travel||15.59%|
|Telecommunications servicesTelecommunications services||1.21%|
|0.5 bn USD of services imported in 2018|
|Construction in the compiling...Construction in the compiling economy||28.24%|
|Personal travelPersonal travel||24.69%|
|Business travelBusiness travel||1.07%|
|Sea transportSea transport||11.44%|
|Air transportAir transport||3.63%|
|Freight insuranceFreight insurance||3.94%|
|Miscellaneous business,...Miscellaneous business, professional, and technical services||1.44%|
|Computer servicesComputer services||0.33%|
|Telecommunications servicesTelecommunications services||0.25%|
Source: United Nations Statistics Division, Latest Available Data
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Latest Update: September 2023