China defends Maldives, free trade pact

President Abdulla Yameen greets key leaders of China on his first state visit to the global superpower. PHOTO/PRESIDENT'S OFFICE

President Abdulla Yameen greets key leaders of China on his first state visit to the global superpower. PHOTO/PRESIDENT’S OFFICE

China has spoken out in defence of the Maldives and the impending free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries, insisting that the pact would benefit the people of both nations.

Chinese foreign ministry’s spokesperson Geng Shuang held a press conference Wednesday, during which he assured that the FTA would boost sustainable development of China-Maldives bilateral economic and trade relations.

Responding to the Maldives opposition’s criticism of the FTA, in particular the claims that the pact would push the Maldives into a debt trap, Shuang declared that the negotiation and signing of the agreement are part of the consensus reached by the leaders of both countries and in line with the trend of economic globalization. Highlighting that China and the Maldives had held several rounds of negotiations since talks commenced in 2014, Shuang stated that the final agreement reached at the end is “high-standard, mutually beneficial and win-win”.

Shuang added that the FTA would also be conducive to the improvement of trade and investment liberalization and facilitation of the region.

The spokesperson also touched upon on president Abdulla Yameen’s first state visit to China, which concludes on December 9.

“We hope this visit will further enhance mutual political trust between the two countries, deepen our practical cooperation and advance the sustained, sound and steady development of bilateral relations to the benefits of the two peoples,” he said.

According to the President’s Office, the state visit entails official talks between the governments of both countries, including signing of key agreements to enhance bilateral relations in the sectors of trade, professional and socioeconomic development, and technology among others. However the Office did not disclose details of said agreements though there are speculations that Yameen might sign the FTA in China.

This marks Yameen’s first State Visit to China since he assumed presidency in 2013. However, he had made official trips to China in 2014 and 2015, while Chinese president Xi Jinping had also visited the Maldives in 2014.

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