US visa policy shift could hurt bilateral trade: Nirmala Sitaraman

21 Apr 2017


Commerce and Industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said the government will engage constructively with US and other countries to resolve the visa issues. Speaking at the MindMine Summit in New Delhi on Thursday she said India has already submitted its proposal on Trade Facilitation in Services in WTO and want member countries to study the proposal.

The minister said that she did not believe that globalisation is in retreat as ''we are linked deeply with other economies.''

However, she said the ''whole debate'' has to be expanded to include several American firms that are earning their profits in India, signalling that New Delhi could retaliate in the face of protectionism by the US and several other countries.

The ministry of foreign affairs also on Thursday said it was keeping a ''close watch'' on the US move to tighten H-1B visa rules that will impact the Indian IT industry and its professionals, asserting that the issue will be taken up with the Donald Trump administration.

Jaitley also on Thursday "strongly raised" the H-1B visa issue with US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross, highlighting the important role played by highly skilled Indian professionals in America, officials said.

During the meeting in Washington on Thursday, the first ministerial-level interaction between the two countries under the Trump administration, Ross is reported to have defended Trump's merit-based immigration policy.

He also said the US has only started the process of reviewing H1B visas issues and no decision has been taken on it yet.

Jaitley arrived in Washington DC on Thursday morning to attend the annual Spring meeting of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Jaitley is reported to have pointed out the role of Indian IT professionals in economic development of both the United States and India and stressed the need to continue employment of Indian IT professional, which is part of the trade in services.

Trump's executive order signed early this week falls short of an outright ban on Indian IT professionals, but calls for calls for a shift from the current lottery system of H-1B visas. The order also directs the departments of State, Labour, Homeland Security and Justice to changes immigration rules accordingly (See: Trump orders changes to H-1B visa programme, not pushing legislative action.)

Jaitley is scheduled to hold a series of bilateral meetings with his counterparts from the US, Australia, France, Indonesia and Sweden.

During meeting with the US commerce secretary, Jaitley has also stressed that India-US strategic relationship has bipartisan support in both the countries and is the backbone of economic and defence relationship.

Jaitley also hoped the two countries should be able to move towards achieving the goal of $500 billion per annum in bilateral trade in the next few years.

In addition to his meetings and presentations at the annual Spring meeting of the IMF and the World Bank, the Union minister is also scheduled to attend meetings of other multilateral forums including that of the G-20 finance ministers.

Before leaving Washington DC for New York on Sunday, he is expected to interact with think-tanks and eminent Indian-Americans.

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