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India looking for FTA & SAFTA : Maldives Minister

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MALE : According to Maldives, India has initiated efforts to create a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two countries and deliberations are ongoing for achieving it. 

“They (India) want there to be a Free Trade Agreement with the Maldives, in addition to SAFTA (South Asian Free Trade Agreement),” Minister of Economic Development and Trade Mohamed Saeed told a press conference in Male on May 25. 

The Maldives President has offered this opportunity to all countries, Saeed said, adding that the government aims to enter into agreements with as many countries as possible to offer ease in trade activities. 

India’s reported effort at seeking an FTA with the Maldives comes in the backdrop of an ongoing diplomatic row between the two countries since November last year when President Muizzu, known for his pro-China leanings, took oath. 

Within hours of taking oath, Muizzu demanded the withdrawal of Indian military personnel from the island nation. The last of the Indian military personnel were replaced by civilians earlier this month.

The 1981 India and Maldives trade agreement provides for the export of essential commodities. According to the records from the Indian High Commission, the bilateral trade between the two countries crossed $300 million for the first time in 2021 and stood at $500 million in 2022.

Even without an FTA, India has offered concessions on several products to the Maldives, news portal Edition.mv reported quoting the minister. 

Another news portal reported that despite revealing India’s proposal for the FTA, Saeed did not disclose further information about the high-level meeting between him and the Indian High Commissioner to the Maldives Munu Mahawar. 

The two had discussed further strengthening the cooperative ties of both nations in multiple areas, the report said. 

Describing the past agreements, the portal said Maldives had entered into an FTA with China during former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s administration. The Maldives-China FTA breathed new life after Muizzu took charge as Maldives President in November 2023.

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