Accession of East Timor to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations
The accession of East Timor to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations is a process that started following the independence of the country in 2002 when its leaders stated that it had made a "strategic decision" to become a member state of ASEAN in the future. Closer ties with ASEAN are supported by all political parties in East Timor. East Timor would have by far the smallest GDP in the ASEAN, less than 15% of the smallest current ASEAN member state Laos.
In 2002, East Timor was recognised as an observer of ASEAN and joined the ASEAN Regional Forum in 2005. In January 2007 the country acceded to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, pledging to renounce the use of force and binding East Timor to non-interference in the internal affairs of ASEAN member states.
In 2005, East Timor said it wanted to be a member by 2010. In December 2007 President José Ramos-Horta restated that joining was a top priority, and he hoped to join by 2012. In January 2009 the Prime Minister of Thailand said that his country would support East Timor's membership of ASEAN by 2012.
East Timor officially applied for membership in ASEAN on 4 March 2011. After elections in 2012, the new government reaffirmed their commitment to joining the association. While Indonesia, which East Timor gained their independence from in 2002, has pushed for them to be granted ASEAN membership, other countries, such as Singapore and Laos, have objected on the grounds that East Timor is not yet developed enough to join. However, after the ASEAN summit in April 2013, Secretary General of ASEAN Le Luong Minh stated that all member states now supported Timor-Leste's admission to the Association. Minh also stated that "Timor Leste is not yet ready to join ASEAN. So we are pushing them to qualify the obligations." The President of the Philippines Benigno Aquino III pledged his country's support to East Timor's ASEAN membership in June 2013.
By September 2013, the ASEAN's Coordinating Council Working Group was still evaluating Timor-Leste's membership application, and Minh said that there was no timeline for when the assessment would be completed. Singapore pledged that it would not block Timor-Leste's membership in the Association, with their Second Minister for Foreign Affairs, Grace Fu, saying "For any member to come into ASEAN and to be ready for 2015 will be quite a big step. Whether Timor Leste is ready, whether it has its eyes on 2015, we like to have a working group to evaluate." In November 2013, U Aung Htoo, ASEAN Affairs Department deputy director, said that Timor Leste would not be ready to join in 2014 since they do not have an embassy in all 10 current ASEAN member states, a necessity for membership.
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