China-Maldives: MSR deal sealed, free trade deal in the making

Haveeru Online | Dec 17, 2014

MSR deal sealed, Free Trade deal in the making

Fathimath Aruma

Maldives on Tuesday signed the agreement to join the Chinese Maritime Silk Route (MSR) Project, as both Maldives and Chinese government agree to start discussions on a Free Trade agreement.

Maldivian Economic Ministry on Wednesday released a press statement saying that the Memorandum of Understanding to officially join the MSR Project was signed after the first ever Joint Committee on Trade and Economic Cooperation, held in Beijing on Tuesday.

The MoU was signed on behalf of the Maldivian government by Economic Minister Mohamed Saeed who, along with Vice Minister of Chinese Ministry of Commerce H.E Gao Yan, co-chaired the meeting.

The Economic Ministry also reported that the two governments had agreed to initiate discussions regarding setting up a Free Trade Agreement.

“Under a Free Trade Agreement, Maldivian fish exporters will enjoy duty concessions for those products entering the China market. It will also work towards removal of non-tariff barriers that are encountered by traders in cross-border trade between the two countries,” stated the Economic Ministry via their press statement.

According to Economic Ministry, discussions during the Joint Committee meeting had revolved around ongoing infrastructure projects being conducted in Maldives with Chinese assistance, as well as future projects the Chinese government has pledged their commitment to.

The MSR is a project being proposed and championed by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who wishes to revive the historic Chinese Silk Road.

The purpose of the project is to expand Chinese trade transactions with other countries by establishing necessary infrastructure such as transport and communication.

President Xi had extended the invitation to Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom to join the project during his visit to China in August, 2014; the invitation was accepted less than a month later during President Xi’s visit to Maldives.

The Joint Committee on Trade and Economic Cooperation was set up as per a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the two countries during President Xi’s visit.

The Maldivian delegation in Beijing to attend the Joint Committee meeting includes Fisheries Minister Dr Mohamed Shainee, and President’s Office Minister Mohamed Hussein Shareef (Mundhu), in addition to Economic Minister Saeed.

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source: Haveeru