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The Maldives is keen to seal a free trade agreement with China despite murmurs of disapproval from the main opposition MDP, as it will aid in economic growth in the Indian Ocean archipelago, a senior minister said today. "China is eager to sign and the Maldives has seen the opportunity for the Maldivian economy to grow with it," Mohamed Shainee, the Maldives' minister of fisheries and agriculture said here. He said the Maldives has seen that arrangements like the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) have not worked well in the region. The landmark deal between the Maldives and China was rushed through parliament last week, hours after President Abdulla Yameen sought approval for its ratification. The FTA would ensure zero tariff for Maldivian fish exports to China. Maldivians would also benefit in the health care and construction industries with value addition to Chinese imports from the country. The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has said it is deeply concerned over the "sudden and rushed" FTA with China. "The MDP is deeply alarmed that the Yameen government is entering a trade deal that will have immense economic repercussions on the Maldivian economy," a statement said. The MDP has also urged the government to "suspend the implementation of the FTA to ensure the agreement does not place the Maldives in a geopolitically vulnerable position". On ties with India, Mohamed Sharif, the Maldivian Ambassador to Sri Lanka, said China's position as Maldives' No 1 tourism market has taken a beating with number of tourist arrivals dropping. "We are now looking to develop India as a tourism market.
We have seen an increase in the number of young Indians travelling to Maldives. Maybe we can attract Bollywood stars to the Maldives," he said.
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