Chinese amb responds to econ minister: FTA is of mutual benefit

Chinese Ambassador to the Maldives has responded to Economic Fayyaz Ismail who claimed that the Free Trade Agreeent established between China and Maldives is detrimental to the archipelago’s trade relations with other countries.

In a tweet posted on Tuesday, Chinese Ambassador to the Maldives Zhang Lizhong said the Maldives-China FTA is of mutual benefit and high quality. Adding that the FTA conforms to the international practice, Ambassador Zhang said the agreement would lift economic and trade ties to a new level. He further noted that China has signed 18 FTAs with 22 partners, and said no FTA has ever disrupted any country’s trad ties with its traditional partners.

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. Maldives’ Finance Minister Ibrahim Ameer recently described the deal as non-existent.

Speaking on a program aired by state radio station, Economic Minister Fayyaz Ismail said the agreement should not have been signed in the first place and said the agreement was detrimental to the country’s economy.

“My personal opinion is that the Free Trade Agreement is unacceptable and should not have been signed. True, it does have some benefits to it. Every deal has positive and negative effects,” said Fayyaz. He further noted that he had heavily criticized the agreement as a parliament member during the previous administration.

Fayyaz said although the deal allows goods from China to be imported with no duty charged on it, charging a larger percentage on goods imported from other countries while no duty is charged on Chinese goods would likely disrupt the trade relationship with other countries, said Fayyaz.

“The trade links we have established over time will be destroyed [if we go ahead with the FTA]. This means we will have nothing to fall back on. Our trade relations with Singapore, with Dubai, with India will all be in vain. Ofcourse, all businesses will opt for Chinese products if goods are available at lower costs,” said the minister.

Adding that it will be challenging to re-establish the connections once again once the links are destroyed, Minister Fayyaz said he would not go ahead with such a deal under his ministership.