Visa restrictions amount to 'non-tariff barriers': Chidambaram

Visa restrictions amount to 'non-tariff barriers': Chidambaram Washington: Flagging India's concern over the immigration reform bill with US authorities, Finance Minister P Chidambaram has said the visa restrictions proposed on knowledge workers amount to non-tariff barriers.

The Minister, who is here on an official visit, raised the issue of Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill with the US Congress members, including Joe Crowley, Sandy Levin, Erik Paulsen, John Larson and Ami Bera, yesterday.

Chidambaram expressed India's discomfort on the immigration issue saying that the "temporary relocation of knowledge workers (which is not 'immigration' by any definition) has been linked to the larger issue of immigration".

In his view, said a statement, "the restrictions sought to be placed on knowledge workers amount to non-tariff barriers".

The Bill, which was recently passed by the US Senate, and is before the House of Representatives, proposes several changes including higher visa costs and increase in wages for H-1B visa holders.

If passed by the House of Representatives, the Bill will be sent to President Barack Obama for signing it into law.

The proposed law will hurt the over USD 100 billion IT-ITES industry in India and software firms like TCS and Infosys as their cost of operations could go up significantly.

In addition to the visa issue, Chidambaram held discussions on wide ranging subjects covering the gamut of Indo-US relations with Congressmen.

Issues like compulsory licensing, patent protection, preferential market access and increase in FDI in areas such as defence and financial services were discussed.

He reiterated that there is close cooperation between the two countries in areas such as security and defence and the civil nuclear agreement was path breaking.

Chidambaram also explained to Congressmen that Indian law affirms intellectual property rights (IPRs) and the process of granting compulsory license and patent registration are WTO compliant and subject to judicial review.

He also emphasised the importance of India becoming a manufacturing hub for meeting its own domestic needs and for re-balancing the global economy.

The Members of Congress, the release said, spoke of their deep interest in promoting India-US relations and advancing mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries.

"They appreciated the opportunity to exchange views with the Finance Minister and stressed the value of continuing such dialogues and engagement to accelerate the deepening of the India-US strategic partnership," it said.

Chidambaram also had discussions with Senator Mark Warner of Virginia and Senator John Cornyn of Texas, Co-Chairs of the Senate India Caucus. The Wal-Mart representatives also called on the Finance Minister.

PTI