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Last updated: 21 Apr, 2017  

Nirmala Sitharaman THMB Jaitley will take up H-1B visa issue in US visit: Sitharaman

Arun Jaitley
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SME Times News Bureau | 21 Apr, 2017
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, currently on a visit to the US, will take up with the American administration the matter of restrictions on H-1B visas, the government said on Thursday.

Speaking to media here on the executive order signed by US President Donald Trump on H-1B visas, Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the US had committed certain number of these visas to India at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and "we would definitely want" America to honour that commitment.

"It is not just the US, but several countries now adopting such (restrictive) measures," she said.

The restrictive visa regime would also impact the US companies operating in India, the Minister said.

"So it is not a unilateral (issue) where Indian companies would have to face this... there are several US companies in India which are doing business for years here," she said.

While the US is reviewing its visa programme for foreign workers, Australia has recently abolished a temporary work visa programme -- the 457 visa.

Citing the examples of these countries tightening their visa regime for movement of skilled professionals, Sitharaman said: "Countries are now very clearly raising protectionist walls as regards service trade."

"I protest comparison of asylum-seeking migrants with skilled professionals."

To a question whether India would take the US and Australia to the WTO's dispute resolution mechanism, she replied: "At this stage, we will engage constructively. At the same time, India will ensure that it will not accept unfair treatment."

In this connection, Sitharaman said India has submitted a proposal to the WTO for an agreement on trade facilitation in services (TFS)

"It is time that we have a global framework within which trade in services can happen. We will be actively pursuing our proposal in the WTO," she said.

India has presented a concept note at the WTO for a TFS Agreement, which proposes a way forward on comprehensively addressing the numerous border and behind-the-border barriers on the lines of the historic trade facilitation agreement in goods.

The TFS proposal aims at liberalising rules for movement of professionals, liberalised visa regime and long-term business visas.

India is pushing for a TFA in services at the WTO as this sector has huge potential and contributes significantly to the country's economy.

Pointing out that the Indian services sector contributes over 55 per cent to the country's Gross Domestic Product, Sitharaman earlier said India was unable to leverage its strength in services to get the necessary benefits in the TFA in goods signed with the Asean group, for instance.

Meanwhile, India's paper for a proposed TFS Agreement has been well received by many member countries, WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo told reporters here during a visit last month.
 
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