Jairam Ramesh visits Maldives on Jan 29

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New Delhi, Jan 28 (UNI) The Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh will be visiting Maldives from January 29-31 in order to expand trade and investment ties within the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

Mr Ramesh has already visited Bangladesh and is scheduled to be in Sri Lanka in two weeks time. Interactions with delegations from Pakistan and Bhutan have also taken place.

In addition, the Minister has visited all the important border trade centres in the region, including Petrapole, Moreh and Attari/Wagah.

The visit assumes significance in light of the forthcoming South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) Ministerial meeting in the national capital on March 1-2, 2008.

He will also review the working of the Indo-Maldives Trade Agreement of 1981 in light of the changes that have taken place in the economies of both countries.

India supplies essential commodities like rice, wheat flour, eggs, potatoes, stones and sand as part of this agreement.

Even though wheat exports from India are banned, as a measure of the importance it attaches to SAARC in general and Maldives in particular, India supplies wheat flour to Maldives.

India accounts for about 10-11 per cent of Maldives imports, next to Singapore and Sri Lanka and is on par with the UAE.

Exports from India to Maldives are presently in the region of about 100 million dollar.

Singapore accounts for almost 90 per cent of the FDI into Maldives, followed by Malaysia.

Fisheries is one important area for bilateral cooperation that is proposed to be discussed during the Minister's visit.

Cooperation in tuna is one specific area that will be discussed now that India has also announced major plans to develop its tuna resources, particularly in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

In addition, Maldives has sought India's assistance to develop it as a trans-shipment and logistics hub because of its strategic location. Maldives has also expressed in expanding the scope of training in IT.

UNI BKS SBA ND1535

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