India may drag US to WTO for hiking professional visa fee

Last Updated: Tuesday, August 17, 2010 - 16:33

New Delhi: India may drag US to the World
Trade Organisation for its new "protectionist" move in hiking
professional visa fees, a step that will make Indian IT
companies less competitive in the American market.

The fee hike is expected to cost Indian companies, mainly
IT outsourcing firms, about USD 200 million annually.

India "cannot keep quite" on an issue that hurts its
commercial interests, Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar said
today, making it clear that moving the WTO on the matter is
being considered seriously.

"Yes this (visa fee hike) is WTO incompatible... I will
take up the matter under advisement," Khullar told reporters
when asked if India was considering to drag the US to WTO on
the issue.

Protesting the American move, Commerce and Industry
Minister Anand Sharma wrote to the US Trade Representative Ron
Kirk last week saying that the visa fee hike would cost Indian
firms USD 200 million a year, making them less competitive.

Khullar said the hike in H-1B and L-1 visa fees is a
protectionist move that would also hurt the US interest.

"If the US wishes to put up its protectionist barriers
to hurt itself let them do it. But where a measure is
specifically targetting my commercial interest I cannot keep
quiet," the Secretary said.

Under the Emergency Border Security Supplemental
Appropriations Act, 2010 -- popularly called the Border
Security Bill -- the US has hiked fee for certain categories
of H-1B and L1 visas by at least USD 2,000 for the next five
years.

US says the hike will help it foot nearly USD 550
million, out of the proposed expenditure of USD 650 million,
on increasing security along the US-Mexico border.

Like India, American Inc has flayed the US government`s
move, which will hurt Indian IT companies the most, saying
that the law would undermine investment relations with India.

Corporate America has come down heavily on all those in
the US who, of late, have been alleging that Indian companies
grab most of the H-1B work visas and take away American jobs.

In the latest report on immigration, US Chamber of
Commerce, which is world`s largest chamber with more than
three million members, asserted that such allegations against
Indian companies is "hyperbole".

However, the US Administration said the measure, "makes
sense" and would in no way undermine "robust and vital" ties
with India.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, August 17, 2010 - 16:33

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