Doing Business in Timor-Leste
Independent since 2002, Timor-Leste is establishing legislative, executive, and judicial institutions, developing laws and regulations, and equipping government personnel with knowledge and skills. Private and public institutions are in the early stages of building institutional capacity while addressing the challenges of improving the nation's basic infrastructure and bolstering the human capital endowment. Although instability and periods of violent upheaval marked the early years of Timor-Leste's history, the country has taken advantage of an unprecedented period of domestic tranquility since 2008 to focus on its national priorities, which since 2011 have been: infrastructure, rural development, accelerated human resources development, access to justice, social service delivery, good governance, and public security and stability. The United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) peacekeeping operation and the International Stabilization Force (ISF) departed Timor-Leste at the end of 2012.
Government of Timor-Leste policy welcomes foreign direct investment. It has contracted with foreign firms to explore for and develop offshore oil and gas deposits; royalties and taxes are deposited in a sovereign Petroleum Fund, which held roughly $15 billion in early 2014. Outside the oil and gas sector, government spending, small-scale retail activity, and subsistence agriculture are primary sources of employment and contributors to Gross Domestic Product. With one of the world's most rapidly growing populations, Timorese authorities are interested in expanding private sector economic activity to provide employment for new labor market entrants.
Commerce is picking up in Timor-Leste as consumers' and business people's confidence in future political stability rises and growing government budgets fund a larger public service and more public works. In additional to oil and gas prospects, investment opportunities exist, particularly in the services, tourism, and agriculture sectors. Obstacles to investment include bureaucratic inefficiency, paucity of local financing options, absence of rules governing real property ownership and other essential legislation, uncertain implementation of government procurement procedures, significant skills shortages, and perceptions of malfeasance, conflicts of interest, and corruption.
- Contact your local U.S. Export Assistance Center for advice and support on exporting to Timor-Leste. Contact a Trade Specialist Near You (http://export.gov/eac/index.asp)
- Contact your local Small Business Development Center (SBDCs): Starting a business can be a challenge, but there is help for you in your area. Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) are partnerships primarily between the government and colleges/universities administered by the Small Business Administration and aims at giving educational services for small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs.
Investing in Timor-Leste
If you are considering investment or are already active in Timor-Leste, here are some steps you may wish to consider as you get started or stay in touch:
- Register with the U.S. Embassy – If you are planning a visit to consider investment or are already active in Timor-Leste, let us know by sending an email to the contact addresses on this page.
- Consult “Doing Business in Timor-Leste: 2013 Country Commercial Guide for U.S. Companies.” (PDF 329 KB)
- Subscribe to our embassy Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/USEmbassyDili.
- Add us to your mailing lists – we are always happy to stay informed.
Set up a meeting with our economic and commercial team to discuss any issues that arise.
Working in Timor-Leste
In this section you will find information on business visas, travel advisories, and anti-corruption tools.
For information on obtaining a visa to visit Timor-Leste visit the Timor-Leste website http://migracao.gov.tl/?page_id=32
Make sure to check the current State Department travel advisory http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_1764.html for Timor-Leste.
The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) is an important anti-corruption tool designed to discourage corrupt business practices in favor of free and fair markets. The FCPA prohibits promising, offering, giving or authorizing giving anything of value to a foreign government official where the purpose is to obtain or retain business. These prohibitions apply to U.S. persons, both individuals and companies, and companies that are listed on U.S. exchanges. The statute also requires companies publicly traded in the U.S. to keep accurate books and records and implement appropriate internal controls.
A party to a transaction seeking to know whether a proposed course of conduct would violate the FCPA can take advantage of the opinion procedure established by the statue. Within 30 days of receiving a description of a proposed course of conduct in writing, the Attorney General will provide the party with a written opinion on whether the proposed conduct would violate the FCPA. Not only do opinions provide the requesting party with a rebuttable presumption that the conduct does not violate the FCPA, but DOJ publishes past opinions which can provide guidance for other companies facing similar situations.
More information on the DOJ opinion procedure can be found here: http://www.morganlewis.com/documents/fcpa/
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