Subject: AN: Indonesia the main market for ET goods



Kupang, E. Nusa Tenggara, Feb 12 (ANTARA) - East Timor still considers Indonesia as the main foreign market for its products despite a decision by its own economic authorities to impose zero duty on export of 49 commodities to the United States and European Union, an East Timorese businessman said.

"The zero-duty on exports to the United State and the Euroepan Union is a boon to businessmen in Timor Lorosae (East Timor) . But we still look at Indonesia, espcially East Nusa Tenggara, as our main market," Oscar Lima, chairman of a visiting delegation of East Tomorese businessmen said here Monday.

Businessmen in East Timor were currently having difficulty developing their territory's economy as it was still going through a transition period prior to full independence.

"After UNTAET (the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor) leaves our region, we will invite foreign investors, including Indonesian, to operate in our country," Lima said.

Lima did not specify the 49 commodities enjoying zero duty if exported to the United States and the European Union.

He said there was need to set up a joint market with Indonesia's East Nusa Tenggara province because it would be too expensive to buy goods from Australia, the United States, Portugal, and the European Union.

Another East Timorese businessman, Manuel Carrascalao, said cross-border trade between East Timor and East Nusatenggara should be opened soon so that East Timorese can meet their daily necessaries at affordable prices.

"Cross-border trading should be opened as soon as possible so that East Timorese can buy basic commodities at lower prices," Carrascalao said.

To date, all goods imported by East Timor from the United States and Australia had to be paid for in dollars making the merchandise too expensive for the common people.

The region was currently using the US and Australian dollars, the escudo and the rupiah for trading.

The rupiah was used by low-income people, while higher income people used dollars and Escudos.

"Everything has become expensive here. How much longer can we withstand this situation. We want an independent country as soon as possible so that we can determine our own destiny," he continued.

Despite those problems, Lima said, there were no banks in East Timor.

Businessmen would have to make their payments to their Indonesian counterparts through Portugal's central bank -- a process that would take 25 days.

To set up a bank, East Timor would need to make an investment of at least US$20 million, Lima said.

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