Three weeks after he returned from a state visit to China, Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu on Monday supported a Free Trade Agreement between Male and Beijing, which he said, will benefit his country’s economy.
Muizzu’s predecessor, pro-India President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s administration did not implement the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Maldives and China that was signed December 2014 during the pro-China President Abdulla Yameen’s administration.
“The implementation of the FTA signed by Maldives with People's Republic of China will provide a myriad number of benefits to Maldivian businesses and to the economy,” Muizzu said in his first presidential speech on Monday.
“Therefore, I am confident that this Parliament will support the completion of the legal procedure for the entry into force of this Agreement. My hope is that free trade agreements with several other countries will be signed and implemented during this period,” he added.
Earlier in January during his state visit to China, Muizzu had said that his administration is committed to the quick implementation of the FTA signed with China, describing it as a symbol of the close commercial ties between the two countries.
In his address at the ‘Invest Maldives Forum in China,’ on January 9 Muizzu had highlighted the FTA signed between China and the Maldives, citing that “the FTA would boost bilateral trade and investments, particularly by increasing the export of fish products to China, marking it as a key priority explored within the FTA.”
Regarded as a pro-China politician in the Maldives, Muizzu told the Forum that his administration is focused on diversifying Maldives’ economic base and ensuring economic security while continuing to strengthen and drive the tourism industry and boost visitor numbers.
China-Maldives bilateral trade in 2022 totalled to USD 451.29 million of which China’s exports constituted USD 451.29 million against USD 60,000 of exports from Maldives.
China has provided assistance to the development of the Maldives since establishing diplomatic relations in 1972.
Meanwhile, after a high-level meeting to monitor the progress of India-assisted Male to Thilafushi link project, popularly known as the Greater Male Connectivity Project (GMCP), India on January 29 said it is committed to working closely with the Government of Maldives for the speedy implementation of the project, the largest-ever infrastructure project in the island nation.
It is a USD 530 million infrastructure project aimed at establishing a direct link between the capital city of the Maldives and Thilafushi, an island located in the South Indian Ocean.