Ex-president signed deal in December
New President Solih declares state coffers have been 'looted'
The Maldives' new government will pull out of a free trade agreement (FTA) with China because it was a mistake for the tiny nation to strike such a pact with the world's second biggest economy, the head of the largest party in the ruling alliance said.
It is the latest sign of a backlash against China in the Maldives, best-known for its luxury resorts on palm-fringed coral islands.
"The trade imbalance between China and the Maldives is so huge that nobody would think of an FTA between such parties," said Mohamed Nasheed, the chief of the Maldivian Democratic Party, which leads the ruling federal alliance. "China is not buying anything from us. It is a one-way treaty."
On Saturday, as he took office, the new President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih declared the state coffers have been "looted" and warned that the country was in financial difficulty after racking up debt with Chinese lenders.
Former President Abdullah Yameen, who lost the election in September, signed the FTA during a visit to Beijing in December, and the same month his parliament ratified the treaty despite opposition protests that he had rushed through the 1,000-page document in less than an hour without any debate.
Nasheed, now an advisor to Solih, said parliament would not pass the law changes required for the zero tariffs agreement to come into force.
"It was ratified by parliament, but fortunately it calls for different sets of legislation. We are not going to have this further legislation. We can't go with that," Nasheed told Reuters in an interview in the capital Male.
China's embassy in Male did not respond to a request for a comment.