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India, EU resume free trade talks after nearly a decade




The talks come amid ongoing efforts to isolate Russia economically in response to the Ukraine conflict.

India and the European Union have resumed talks on a free-trade deal after a nine-year gap, as Western countries seek to wean New Delhi off its close economic ties to Russia.

“Both sides are aiming for the trade negotiations to be broad-based, balanced and comprehensive, based on the principles of fairness and reciprocity,” India’s commerce ministry has said earlier when announcing the first round of talks in Delhi, which were due to run until Friday.

“There will also be discussions on resolving the Market Access Issues which are impeding bilateral trade,” it said.

The European Union is India’s second-biggest trading partner after the United States but talks with the bloc broke down in 2013 over issues including tariff reductions and patent protection.

Merchandise trade hit an all-time high of $116 billion in 2021-22, with India’s exports to the 27-member European Union hitting $65 billion, according to New Delhi.

Dubbed the “tariff king” by former US president Donald Trump, India has become more open to lowering trade barriers in recent years and is negotiating pacts with several other countries.

The Asian giant has refused to condemn Russia’s offensive in Ukraine, even increasing oil purchases from its long-standing strategic ally and biggest supplier of arms.

In February, India signed a major economic partnership agreement with the United Arab Emirates and agreed on an interim free-trade deal with Australia in April, aiming to finish off a full pact by the end of the year.

India is also in trade negotiations with Canada, Israel and Britain.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on a visit in April that Britain and India hoped to nail down an accord by October.

READ MORE: G7 nations to ban Russian gold imports in response to Ukraine conflict: US

Source: TRT 


New administration has done nothing but boost political appointments: Solih





The new Maldivian administration has done nothing but appoint more and more political appointees to high-paying posts, says former Maldivian leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.

Solih, who is a nationwide tour of Maldives to rile up support for the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidates in the upcoming parliamentary elections, made the remark in a visit to L. Gan on Sunday.

Addressing a rally in Gan, Solih said that President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu’s administration is not running any projects.

“Where are the development projects started in the last five months? But they halted 1,700 projects we initiated,” he said.

“There’s money allocated in this year’s budget for these projects. But after stopping these [projects], the only thing they are doing is appointing more people to political posts and paying them salaries. They are doing nothing else,” he said.

Solih, who now serves as an advisor at MDP, suggested that “either the incumbent administration does not know how to manage the budget or it is deliberately trying to keep the people enslaved.”

He accused the administration of intimidating voters, especially those employed in state-run companies.

“MDP will always rise up against this,” he said.

MDP has repeatedly expressed concern over the high number of apolitical appointments made by the PPM-PNC administration.

Addressing Sunday’s rally, Solih said the people now realize that they made a “mistake” during the 2023 presidential elections. He alleged that President Muizzu based his campaign on “lies and deceit.”

“I see MDP winning the seats by a landslide again, In Sha Allah,” he said, referring to the party’s historic win in the 2019 parliamentary elections.

The allegations of intimidation of government employees and increased hirings for political gain has been repeatedly denied by the government.

The parliamentary elections is scheduled for April 21.

Total 368 candidates are contesting for 93 parliamentary seats in this year’s elections. The highest number of candidates are from the MDP – which is contesting 90 seats.


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President plans legal reforms to have tax revenue injected into councils





President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu says he plans on making legal reforms to have some of the tax revenue generated by the state injected into local councils to boost its income.

President Muizzu, who is on a tour of F. Atoll, made the announcement during a rally in Feeali on Sunday afternoon.

Addressing the rally, President Muizzu said that injecting tax revenue into local councils will facilitate the implementation of multiple initiatives that are beneficial to the people.

“The state generates income from taxes on tourism and other sectors. We will reform the Taxation Act and other relevant laws to inject a certain percentage of the tax revenue directly into councils. There’s a lot that councils can do for the development of islands through this,” he said.

Highlighting on the decision to involve local councils and small businesses in the lease of uninhabited islands, President Muizzu said he wants to enrich the people and make them more self-reliant.

He has named empowering and securing financial independence to councils as one of his administration’s key priorities. He said that he wants to inject revenue from tourism and other key economic sectors into local councils – reducing councils’ dependance on the central government for local developmental initiatives.

President Muizzu said he wants to produce results at a fast pace.

“As I said before, I want to produce results at a fast pace. I want to realize the people’s aspirations without wasting a single day,” he said.

Sunday’s rally had followed a meeting with members of the Feeali Council – bringing the total number of council representatives the president has met during his current tour to 168. He now has 32 councils left to meet.


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MDP taking Yameen’s release to JSC is a joke: PNC





Ruling People’s National Congress (PNC) has claimed the main opposition MDP’s complaint to Judicial Services Commission (JSC) over the delays in former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s appeal hearing is a joke.

It has been nearly four months since the appeal hearing on the crimnal sentence of the former president ended, however, the verdict is still pending.

The former president was found guilty by the Criminal Court on December 25, 2022 for the charges of money laundering and graft in the lease of Vaavu atoll Aarah.

Parliament Speaker Mohamed Aslam recently announced the opposition party was moving forward to submit the complaint over the delay in Yameen’s appeal to JSC.

In a press conference on Sunday, PNC’s senior spokesperson Heena Waleed criticized MDP and Aslam for their decision calling it was a “big joke”.

“Their claim of taking the issue to JSC for the release of Yameen is nothing but a big joke for us,” Heena jabbed.

She further highlighted the three judges in the High Court bench presiding over Yameen’s appeal were all appointed during the previous MDP-led government. Heena also said that while Aslam has claimed he would take the matter to JSC, its majority consists of MDP members including the Speaker.

“JSC is comprised of MDP members, the Parliament speaker is taking the case to a commission which has their party’s majority. So, it truly is a big joke,” Heena added.

She affirmed the current government was not vindictive, but alleged MDP took Super Majority of the 19th parliament assembly after imprisoning Yameen.

“Take a look now, all the opposition members, its leaders and the party are campaigning free and openly. Our party has intervened it,” Heena, who is also the current CEO of NSPA said.

Meanwhile, Yameen has made multiple allegations the current government did not intend to release the former PPM leader.

While he was sentenced for 11 years in jail during the former government, he was transferred to house arrest around the culmination point of Solih’s administration.

Besides this, Yameen was provided with leniencies to step out of his residence for exercise and medical checkups. However, his political activities were restricted by relevant authorities.

Despite the restriction, Yameen had actively participated in multiple PNF rallies; the new party he is attempting to start.

Though Maldives Correctional Service warned Yameen against partaking in political activities, the authority has not taken any action against him so far.


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