Economic minister Mohamed Saeed departed late Tuesday to Hong Kong for the final round of free trade talks with the nation.
Speaking to Mihaaru prior to his departure, Saeed expressed hopes that entering into free trade with Hong Kong would positively impact the economic and financial sectors of the Maldives.
The two countries commenced free trade negotiations in September 28, 2016, amidst similar talks between the Maldives and China. Hong Kong had participated in the discussions then as an observer.
Saeed had stated at the time that Hong Kong is one of the most developed financial centres in the world, and entering into free trade with Hong Kong would be a major boost in developing the archipelago into an internationally recognised financial hub. Noting that Hong Kong is one of the major destinations that the Maldives exports reef fish to, the minister had also disclosed that the government would put forward tax exemption for fish products exported to Hong Kong for the Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
Meanwhile, the Maldives and China signed the FTA last December 7, marking the first time for the island nation to enter into free trade with an individual country. Previously the Maldives entered into a regional agreement with the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) which includes all the SAARC countries.
While the Maldives-China FTA had drawn great criticism from the opposition, the government maintains that free trade with the second biggest economic power in the world would directly benefit the Maldives in the long run.