Beijing,December 6 (newsin.asia): The Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen, accompanied by First Lady Fathimath Ibrahim, arrived here on Wednesday on a three-day visit to China to further the already strong economic ties between the two countries.
Yameen, who is on a State visit at the invitation of his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, is expected to oversee the signing of key agreements designed to enhance trade, professional and socio-economic development as well as technological and other collaborations between the two countries, a Maldivian government release said.
President Yameen will meet a number of key leaders of China to discuss ways to further accelerate socio-economic ties.
FTA to be Signed
One of the most important pacts to be signed is a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) which is expected to open up the huge Chinese market to Maldivian fish and fish products at zero duty. Fish and fish products account for 99% of the Indian Ocean country’s export.
The deal on fish will help Maldivian exporters who are now paying 25 to 26% duty when they export to Europe, their principal market now. This is because the Maldives no longer enjoys the General System of Preferences Plus (GSP Plus) as the country is now in the middle income bracket thanks to its increasing earnings from tourism and fish exports.
The ability to enter the humongous Chinese market will particularly benefit the small exporter.
The FTA will also help Chinese industrial goods enter the Maldivian market at concessional duties, and this will be advantageous to the Maldives because such goods are needed to create infrastructural facilities to diversify the economy, provide jobs to its people, and also prepare to receive 7 to 9 million tourists as against 1.5 million now, the Fisheries Minister Mohamed Shainee said in Colombo earlier this week.
Thus the FTA will not only bring about diversification of the economy but also strengthen existing sectors like fisheries and tourism. In other words it will usher in a “win win” situation across the social and economic spectrum in the Maldives.
Maldivian government leaders say that the opposition’s contention that the FTA with China will only widen the yawning trade gap with that country with no benefits accruing to the country is baseless. The FTA has to be seen from a broader and long term perspective, they say.