US deputy trade representative Robert Holleyman will huddle with Indian commerce ministry officials here on July 25 and 26 to set the stage for the trade policy forum (TPF) meeting later this year in which India is expected to strongly voice its concerns about the US move to raise H1B visa fees, which has been hurting the Indian IT industry. Sources told FE that the TPF meeting, scheduled for October 19 and 20, will focus on four key areas: services, investments, agriculture and intellectual property rights (IPRs). US trade representative Miachel Froman will be attending the meeting, which will take place in New Delhi this year.
India is learnt to be gearing up to challenge the US at the dispute settlement body (DSB) of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on the latter’s recent “discriminatory” move to drastically hike the H-1B and L-1 visa charges, which is estimated to quadruple the Indian information technology industry’s annual visa costs to $400 million. Also,two US lawmakers, earlier this month, introduced in the House of representative a piece of legislation which, if approved by Congress, would prevent Indian companies from recruiting IT professionals on H1B and L1 work visas.
Earlier this month, commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said India will take up the visa issue when the USTR visits New Delhi. Sources had earlier said that the move to drag the US to the WTO over visa was a sign that New Delhi would henceforth invoke the WTO’s dispute settlement process more unhesitatingly than earlier to expeditiously settle its disputes with trading partners, rather than try striking bilateral deals that have proven to be a sub-optimal strategy.
Analysts said India’s decision to make greater use of the multilateral dispute resolution framework is also prompted by the increasing instances of the country’s trading partners resorting to the same and achieving the outcome they wanted. In 2014, for instance, the US had dragged India to the DSB against its National Solar Mission that favoured the use of locally manufactured solar equipment and managed to get a ruling against India.