India snaps at America's H-1B visa comments

Updated on May 17, 2007 04:20 AM IST
Govt toughens stand on visa issue, report Deepak Joshi and Gaurav Choudhury.
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None | ByDeepak Joshi and Gaurav Choudhury, New Delhi

Toughening his stand on the United State’s move to seek details from Indian companies on workforce for alleged misuse of H-1B visas, Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath cautioned that this would have an adverse impact on the rapidly expanding services trade.

The minister said it would be difficult for India to enhance its commitments in the services negotiations in the World Trade Organisation unless there is forward movement by trading partners like the US. “Services are an important component of the breakthrough in the current WTO negotiations and any move that vitiates current progress will only frustrate progress in bringing the (Doha) round to a successful completion. I would like to assure Indian industry that India will not subscribe to any WTO conclusion without a satisfactory outcome in services,” Nath asserted.

He said that he would raise this issue with US Trade Representative Susan Schwab and at the G-4 meetings in Brussels starting Thursday.

The issue gained significance after two members of the US Senate Judiciary Committee (Sub-Committee on Immigration, Border Security and Refugees) wrote to prominent Indian IT companies — including TCS, Infosys and Wipro — seeking details of their utilization of the H-1B programme.

“I am surprised both with the form and content of the letter. Issues such as work visas are inter-governmental in nature and should be dealt with accordingly. Temporary movement of skilled professionals is an essential component of the global services economy and bears no relation to immigration issues. Any move that creates uncertainty and unpredictability about such movements will naturally have an adverse impact on the rapidly expanding services trade,” Nath stated.

In recent years, India and the US have expanded their bilateral engagement in services trade to mutual advantage. The importance of knowledge-based services trade in the trade basket is a unique feature of India-US trade, the minister added.

“For quite some time now, we have been discussing with the US further liberalization of their regime for movement of skilled professionals to facilitate further expansion of this trade. At this juncture, we would be extremely concerned if there are efforts to circumscribe the existing levels of liberalization in this area in the US.”

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