The Maldives will officially join China’s Maritime Silk Road Project during the first ever China-Maldives joint commission on economy and trade in Beijing today.
A high level delegation of cabinet ministers left Malé yesterday evening (December 14), telling local media that the Maldives would officially join the trade route.
“With projects such as oil exploration and bridge construction in the agenda for discussion, the meeting will benefit economies of both countries. This is a great achievement to us as well,” Minister of Economic Development Mohamed Saeed told Haveeru.
An MoU establishing a Joint Committee on Trade and Economic Cooperation was one of a raft of agreements signed during the historic visit of President Xi Jinpeng in September.
The Maldivian delegation sent to Beijing also includes Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Dr Mohamed Shainee, and Minister at the President’s Office Mohamed Hussein Shareef.
Shainee told media that discussions would be held with two Chinese companies regarding the search for oil, adding that the opportunity for neighbouring countries to join the search would be available.
India has already offered to assist in oil exploration within Maldivian territorial waters. The announcement that the administration of President Yameen would resume the Maldives’ decades-long search for oil was followed by a seismic survey by a German research vessel in August.
China’s Silk Road scheme is said to have caused concern in India, though Chinese state media has reported that more than 50 states have expressed willingness to join the project this year.
President Xi has repeatedly urged the Maldives to get involved in the trade route, which will link China to the east coast of Africa and the Mediterranean and is said to pass the Maldives’ northernmost atoll – the proposed site of the Ihavandhippolhu Integrated Development Project.
The ‘iHavan’ transshipment port – one of five mega-projects envisioned by the government – is designed to take advantage of the US$18 trillion worth of goods transported across the seven degree channel annually.
Attempts by the Yameen administration to attract foreign investors – which has included the introduction of the Special Economic Zones Act – have yet to result in any major deals, though China has signed agreements relating to the promotion of the Malé-Hulhulé bridge and the development of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA).
After a team of Chinese surveyors carried out a feasibility study into the bridge project last month, ministers last night told the press that they would seek to expedite the project while in Beijing.
Additionally, attempts would be made to secure deals for the development of the runway at INIA, the delegation explained. Consultants from Singapore’s Changi International Airport have been hired to oversee the development, with the tourism minister citing their experience working with Chinese contractors.
The delegation also explained that discussions would be held with China’s Ministry of Commerce regarding a free-trade areas, as well as discussing obtaining cheaper oil.
President Yameen has made clear his intention to further pursue already rapidly expanding ties with China, announcing a policy shift to the east while criticising the interference of western powers. China also accounts for one third of all tourists visiting the Maldives.
Yameen last week laid the foundations for 704 housing units in Hulhumalé, part of an arrangement for 1500 to be built by the China Machinery Engineering Corporation as part of the further development of Hulhumalé – another of the government’s mega-projects.
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