China says Maldives will make 'right choice' on free trade deal

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang. (Image source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, People's Republic of China.) Photograph:( Others )

WION New Delhi, Delhi, India Nov 20, 2018, 09.04 PM (IST) Sidhant Sibal

China's foreign ministry has reacted sharply to comments made by former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed saying Male will pull out of the Maldives-China Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that was signed under the previous Yameen administration.  

Hoping "the Maldivian government will make the right choice in this regards", Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said. "Early implementation of the agreement will deliver benefits to the two sides at an early date." He added that the FTA was reached "through friendly and equal consultation, which is mutually beneficial."

Speaking to the news agency Reuters on Monday, Mohamed Nasheed said, “It was ratified by parliament, but fortunately it calls for different sets of legislation. We are not going to have this further legislation. We can’t go with that.” 

Nasheed, along with former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, is considered the power behind new President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.

Bejing also reacted to the new Maldivian government's plans to review and audit a number of Chinese projects. "China is committed to deepening our win-win cooperation with Maldives, and our will to maintain good relations with Maldives is firm and clear cut," Geng Shuang said. 

China was represented at Solih's swearing-in ceremony by Luo Shugang, Special Envoy of the Chinese President Xi Jinping and the Minister of Culture and Tourism. Shugang also called on the new President later. 

At that meeting, the Special Envoy of the Chinese President assured President Solih of China’s commitment to further strengthening their close bilateral relations. 

According to a release from the president's office, Solih underscored the "contributions made by China to the development of Maldives over the years" and further "expressed his confidence for continued cooperation between the two countries in the future."

Maldives' relationship with China had progressed under former President Yameen but he had junked the India First policy which Male had traditionally been pursuing. The Solih government has made a pledge to reset ties with New Delhi and the new Maldivian foreign minister Abdulla Shahid will be visiting India on November 26. 

China has been building a number of infrastructure projects in the Indian ocean Island country but that has been the cause of worry since it has lead to an increase in debt. Speaking to WION a few months ago, Nasheed had said, "China has been using debt as a leverage"

Story highlights

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said the FTA was reached 'through friendly and equal consultation, which is mutually beneficial'.