President Abdulla Yameen is to make his first state visit to China, days after rushing through a massive trade deal with the world’s second biggest economy.
A brief notice issued Monday said the trip, which takes place from December 6 until December 9, was at the invitation of President Xi Jinping.
“High-level discussions with top government officials and stakeholders of China will take place during the visit, and a number of agreements on bilateral cooperation will be signed,” said the notice.
It is not clear if one of the agreements to be signed will be the one approved last week at hastily convened parliamentary sessions in Malé, where ruling party lawmakers fast-tracked a deal that commits both nations to slashing tariffs on most imported goods to zero.
Yameen previously said the FTA with China should not be a “cause for concern” despite the loss of revenue from import duties. The public would benefit from the availability of cheaper goods, he said.
The decision to pursue a FTA was made during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s historic state visit to the Maldives in September 2014.
Former president Mohamed Nasheed slammed the FTA, saying it was bad for the region and undermined the country’s sovereignty.
“It will deepen the debt trap to China,” he told the Times of India in an interview published Sunday, “already more than 70 percent of our foreign debt is owed to Beijing, which gives Beijing huge leverage over us, undermining Maldivian sovereignty and independence.”
Fisheries Minister Mohamed Shainee told a news conference in Colombo that the FTA was based on pure commercial considerations and would not affect relations with India, which has reportedly been caught off guard.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was unable to provide the Maldives Independent with further information about the visit.