India to raise visa fee hike, outsourcing issues with US (Lead)

September 10th, 2010 - 10:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Bangalore, Sep 10 (IANS) India will raise the visa fee hike issue with the US administration at the upcoming joint Trade Policy Forum (TPF) meeting Sep 21 in Washington, union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said here Friday.
“We have already flagged to the US government that we intend to place the visa fee hike issue on the table to discuss at the Forum. I hope they will reflect and we will be able to find a meaningful solution,” Sharma told reporters here.

Asserting that the hike in H1-B and L1 visa fee was on the top of the Indian agenda, Sharma said he had conveyed the government’s serious concern to the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk, who co-chairs the Forum with him.

India has also decided to discuss the Ohio state ban on outsourcing of IT projects and US President Barack Obama’s recent remarks against off-shoring.

“Though the Ohio ban on outsourcing is a state issue and Obama’s remarks against off-shoring are a sovereign issue, we are going to discuss at the Forum because eventually outsourcing plays a major role,” Sharma said on the margins of a function here.

Clarifying that the government was with the IT industry on the visa fee hike and outsourcing issues, Sharma said the question was not what was being done through the government support to the IT sector, as it goes well beyond that.

Asked if India had a case to take up the visa fee hike issue to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Sharma said the government would first examine whether there was a violation of commitments by the US.

“Every country has its WTO commitments to fulfill. We will have to examine whether there is a violation of such commitments by the US. If there is a number of professionals that should go, then it has to be made possible and not difficult by raising the bar every time, which it (US) has done,” he said.

Admitting that there have been developments such as the financial crisis and the economic downturn since September 2008, Sharma said since then the tendency of many countries had been to look inwards.

“But protectionist measures are counterproductive. The need is to engage. India IT professionals go to various countries, including the US on visas.

Noting that the Indian IT industry made commendable contribution, which is acknowledged and respected worldwide, Sharma said industry worldwide goes for outsourcing.

“These are business decisions made. It is not that people sitting in India have decided what should be outsourced to them. We have the capability. We have built institutions,” Sharma said.

Recalling that the American industry, the Indo-US Chambers of Commerce and prominent opinion makers in the US had gone on record that the hike in visa fee and ban on outsourcing or offshoring were counterproductive,” Sharma said the Indian IT-BPO industry was creating jobs not only in India, but also in Europe and America, where large number of local people were employed.

“About 90-95 percent of jobs are generated for local people by the Indian global software majors and their back offices by setting up subsidiaries and global delivery centres in the Americas, Europe and Africa,” Sharma added.

Sharma was visiting Infosys Technologies campus in the electronics city to discuss the issues with its chairman and chief mentor N.R. Narayana Murthy and chief executives of the IT industry.

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