China-Maldives FTA is 'dead', claims Nasheed

The Free Trade Agreement between Maldives and China is 'dead', Parliament Speaker Mohamed Nasheed has stated.

In an interview given to India's WION News during his ongoing visit to the neighbouring nation, Nasheed said the Chinese government needs to restructure the debt accrued in the Maldives due to Chinese infrastructure projects.

During the interview, Nasheed was asked by the newspaper's diplomatic correspondent Sidhant Sibal if the current government will be going ahead with the Maldives-China FTA.

In his response, Nasheed said the FTA is 'dead' and that it is not proceeding or being implemented.

"The FTA is dead. It is not proceeding and it has to come to the parliament first for it to be implemented. I don't see our parliamentarians having the appetite for it," said Nasheed.

Speaking on construction contracts with China, Nasheed said the government will follow through on the contracts and that it cannot be stopped halfway. However, he reiterated that the contract amounts are heavily inflated.

"In terms of other construction contracts, we must get the contracts done. We can't stop them halfway. It will not do any good to anyone. At the end of the day, we have to pay the bill but my point view is, the Chinese government must restructure the debt and it is up to them to do it and I hope they will do it," said Nasheed.

Nasheed has in the past hinted that the government could pull out of the FTA with China. However, Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid had at the time refuted the claim and said the government has not reached such a decision. If the government were to scrap the FTA agreement, the move will only be pursued after much research and assessment, the minister had said.

The Free Trade Agreement with China was approved by the Parliament in 2017 in under ten minutes during former president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom's tenure. The contentious agreement was signed off after official talks between the then Maldives president and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping during the former's first state visit to the global super power in 2017.