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Maldives gov't begins technical discussions with China on FTA: report

(Xinhua)    07:28, February 06, 2015
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COLOMBO, Feb. 5 -- The Maldivian government has started technical discussions with China regarding the feasibility of a free trade agreement between the two nations, local media reported on Thursday.

A technical committee consisting of experts from both countries engaged in discussions over what would be the Maldives' first free trade agreement with a single country.

Local media outlet Haveeru quoted Economic Development Minister Mohamed Saeed as saying that the committee is tasked with determining the feasibility of such an agreement and identifying any potential difficulties.

"The truth is we want to set up the free trade agreement as soon as possible," he told the paper.

Saeed said the two main reasons in pursuing a free trade agreement with China were duty-free exports of fisheries products, and an increase in air travel between the countries which will bring more Chinese tourists to the Maldives.

Fish accounts for 98 percent of the Maldives' exports, while Chinese tourists make up 30 percent of all visitors to the Indian Ocean nation.

Minister at the President's Office Mohamed Shareef has previously said free trade talks were initiated by the Maldives, and that China has taken a flexible approach with regards to the final agreement.

The government's decision to engage in free-trade with China was stated in December 2014 after the cabinet's economic council visited China to hold discussions on Chinese-assisted projects in the Maldives.

December also saw the Maldives officially sign up to the Maritime Silk Road project, which will provide a trade route between China and east coast of Africa and the Mediterranean.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Liang Jun,Bianji)

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