'No deal on work visas to US'

US senators may give jolt to India's campaign, reports S Rajagopalan.

india Updated: Dec 12, 2005 10:52 IST

In what could be a setback to India’s campaign, US senators have sought to shoot down the idea of Washigton making any commitment to raise work visas at the WTO talks.

Ahead of Hong Kong meet, beginning Tuesday, they have taken the stand the Congress alone has constitutional authority to decide on matters impinging on US immigration policies.

They have asked US Trade Representative Rob Portman to reject the demands by India and some other countries to make “Mode 4 commitments” on expanding US visa programmes for foreign workers. “We should not give the bloc of countries making Mode4/immigration demands any false hopes that the administration would be amenable at any time to agreeing to include, bind or modify US immigration policy in trade agreements,” the senators said in their strongly-worded letter to Portman.

They demanded a “clear public statement” from the USTR that Washington would not make any commitments affecting immigration policy during the current Doha Round of WTO negotiations. They said and asked Portman to adhere to a commitment that his predecessor Robert Zoellick made to the Congress on this score. “In writing now (ahead of the ministerial), we are seeking to avoid a situation in which we would be forced to oppose a trade agreement solely because its terms invaded subject matter over which we retain exclusive domestic policymaking authority,” the senators said.

The seven senators who have signed the letter belong to both the political formations. They are Democrats Dianne Feinstein, Russell Feingold, Byron Dorgan and Barbara Mikulski, and Republicans Larry Craig, Saxby Chambliss and Jeff Sessions. India and some other developing countries have indicated that they would vigorously take up the visa issue in which they have comparative advantage.

First Published: Dec 12, 2005 02:30 IST