New Delhi has proposed the setting up of a bilateral high-level group to discuss with Washington its concerns on the long-pending issue of US “visa restrictions” affecting the easy movement of Indian skilled professionals, especially in the IT sector. The group, India believes, could also expedite talks for a bilateral agreement, aimed at ensuring that workers are not burdened with double taxation of income.
In a two-hour meeting here with deputy US trade representative Robert Holleyman on Tuesday, commerce secretary Rita Teotia also suggested the setting up of a working group to discuss the difficulties faced by Indian pharmaceuticals and traditional medicines in getting market access in the US, an official statement said.
Teotia raised India’s concerns on US Totalization and Social Security Act, including on how the US policy in this regard was discriminatory towards Indian workers in US who ended up losing their social security contributions due to discrepancy in the visa and social security regimes, it added.
The commerce secretary also raised the issue of the US’ high visa costs and corresponding higher wage implications and its impact on India’s IT industry and professionals under the US immigration reforms. The effect of executive visa guidelines due to come into force by mid-August was also discussed.
India claims the lack of a Totalisation Agreement with the US is affecting the Indian software industry as it is paying over $1 billion annually to the US Government in the form of social security, with no benefit or prospect of refund. On visa restrictions, India had considered taking the US to the WTO dispute settlement panel but then decided to resolve the issue bilaterally.
The bilateral discussions were part of an inter-ministerial discussion to set the agenda and modalities for the ninth round of the Ministerial Level Meeting of the Trade Policy Forum (TPF) in US, likely by October-end.
During Tuesday’s meeting India also took up the market access issues concerning its several agrarian products, including rice, mangoes, pomegranates and table grapes, in the US.