The European Union said on Wednesday that it was ready to accommodate more Indian IT professionals and denounced any form of protectionism in global trade, amid anxiety in India over the Donald Trump administration’s possible clampdown on H-1B visa.
Pushing for deeper trade ties with India, a delegation of European Parliament’s Committee on foreign affairs also expressed “regret” over failure by both sides to resume the stalled dialogue to firm the long-pending EU-India trade and an investment pact.
Criticising the new US government’s protectionist rhetoric which triggered fears in Europe as well, head of the delegation David McAllister said Europe was “open” for allowing more Indian professionals who are high on demand.
“Europe is open for people with high demand. Indian people are highly skilled. Our IT sector would not have been successful if we did not have skilled professionals from India,” he said.
Soon after taking over last month, Trump had decided to overhaul the work visa programmes like the H-1B and L1, a move that will adversely hit the lifeline of Indian tech firms and professionals in the US.
Pressing for early resumption of negotiations for the EU -India Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA), McAllister said the delegation urged Indian leaders to resume the talks as the pact will significantly boost two-way trade.
“We deeply regret that we are not being able to move ahead. We will use the visit to call for resumption of talks for the agreement,” he told reporters.
The EU delegation, the second one in India, will hold talks with a number of Union ministers, national security adviser Ajit Doval, the vice chairman of NITI Ayog Arvind Panagariya and Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan, among others.
An European Parliament delegation for relations with India is also in the country and it had strongly sought resumption of talks for the trade pact during its meetings with finance minister Arun Jaitley and commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
The BTIA talks have been stalled since May 2013, when both sides failed to bridge substantial gaps on crucial issues, including data security status for IT sector.
Launched in June 2007, negotiations for the proposed agreement have witnessed many hurdles as both the sides have major differences on crucial issues.
Delegation member Urmas Paet said the EU would like to have the trade pact with India on the lines of the recently concluded EU-Canada trade deal, which features a new mechanism on investment protection and dispute settlement.
India has already made it clear that it will not allow investment to become part of any global agreement that allows investors to challenge governments in an international tribunal.
In the EU-India Summit in Brussels last year, the two sides had failed to make any announcement on resumption of the negotiations as many bottlenecks still remain.
The two sides are yet to iron out issues related to tariff and movement of professionals but the EU has shown an inclination to restart talks.
Besides demanding significant duty cuts in automobiles, the EU wants tax reduction in wines, spirits and dairy products, and a strong intellectual property regime.