The Maldives will enter into free trade with Hong Kong within six months with the target of becoming an internationally recognised financial centre, announced the government late Sunday.
Speaking to reporters prior to this departure to Hong Kong for free trade negotiations, economic minister Mohamed Saeed stated that Hong Kong is one of the most developed financial centres in the world and entering into free trade with Hong Kong will be a major boost in developing the archipelago into a financial centre.
Noting that Hong Kong is one of the major destinations that the Maldives exports reef fish to, the minister said that the government will put forward tax exemption for fish products exported to Hong Kong for the free trade agreement.
Meanwhile, the Maldives is currently in free trade talks with mainland China. The minister will participate in the final round of negotiations with China during this trip as well, and the two nations are expected to sign the free trade agreement within the first three months of 2017.
As Hong Kong participates in the Maldives-China talks as an observer, Minister Saeed said that talks with Hong Kong will conclude and sign the free trade deal within the next six months.
“We’re not unprepared to enter such deals with other markets in the future as well. We certainly shall,” said the minister at the press conference in Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) prior to his flight.
Hong Kong had announced last May that it will enter into free trade with Georgia in addition to the Maldives. At the time, Hong Kong stated that priority will be given to minimising tax, increasing investment and ease of exportation and importation under the agreement with the island nation.
The free trade deal with China and then Hong Kong will mark the first time for the Maldives to enter into such an agreement with a specific country. Previously the island nation entered into a regional agreement with South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) which includes all South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries.