FM: No decision yet on cancelling free trade deal

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdulla Shahid (R) with President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih (L) at the President's Office on November 17, 2018. (Photo/President's Office)

Maldivian administration has not yet made any decision to cancel the bilateral free trade agreement with China, says Maldivian Foreign Minister.

Speaking during a press conference this Thursday morning, Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid refuted reports carried by some media sources that the new administration has cancelled the free trade agreement signed with China in 2017.

The denial contradicts statements by Mohamed Nasheed, former Maldivian President and Leader of ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), to Reuters earlier this week.

During an interview to Reuters, Nasheed said the free trade agreement with China was a mistake and that the new administration will not allow for the necessary legislation required to enforce the trade deal.

He said a free trade deal between a small island nation and the world’s second largest economy was one-sided.

Nasheed is an outspoken critic of China and has, on several occasions, accused China of using a debt trap to enslave Maldives - an allegation denied by the Chinese Embassy in Maldives.

The free trade agreement with China was signed by former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom in December, 2017.

Speaking during Thursday’s press conference, Shahid noted that the free trade agreement was rushed by the Parliament.

“The committee took only 15 minutes to evaluate a 1,000-page document. My mind refuses to believe the agreement was properly evaluated,” said Shahid.

Shahid, who resigned from the Parliament after President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s inauguration to join his Cabinet, said all parliamentarians, including himself, were not informed of the parliament vote on the agreement.

“It was passed during a meeting which was held without my knowledge,” said Shahid.

He said the new administration will make its decision on how to proceed with the agreement after proper evaluation by experts.

The statement by Foreign Minister this Thursday marks the first time for the new administration to outright refute a comment made by Nasheed.

Shahid advised State officials not to say anything which could affect the relationship between Maldives and China.

“No one wants anything to be said which could affect our relationship with such a close, generous country. This shouldn’t be done. We share a close friendship with China. We are evaluating ways to strengthen the relationship,” said Shahid.