US looking into criticism that border law violates WTO rules

Last Updated: Tuesday, August 17, 2010 - 17:32

Washington: The US is examining comments
including from India that a new law, which aims to raise funds
for border security through a hike in select workers` visa
fees, was not WTO compliant.

"Yes, we are reviewing a suggestion that this bill
(Border Security Bill) is not WTO-compliant. I am not aware
that we`ve reached any final judgment, but we`re not sure
that necessarily any WTO issues are triggered," State
Department Spokesman P J Crowley told reporters.
The US is in talks with Indian officials about the bill,
which has triggered a wave of protest by Indian multinational
companies who have termed it discriminatory, and also claimed
that this would undermine the growing US-India relationship.

The hike in fee of H-1B and L1 visas is expected to cost
Indian companies, mainly IT outsourcing firms, about USD 200
million annually.

India`s Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar said in New
Delhi today that India "cannot keep quite" on an issue that
hurts its commercial interests. He made it clear that moving
the WTO on the matter is being considered seriously.

The border security bill signed by President Barack Obama
into law last week raises some USD 600 million to tighten the
security along the US-Mexico border by deploying some 1,500
national guards, and aerial drones among others.

Most of the money for this would be raised ? about USD
550 million ? by increasing the fee for certain categories of
H-1B and L1 visas over the next five years.
Business in both India and the US say that legislation
was targeted at Indian companies ? which are being denied by
the authors of the bill.

India`s Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma has
already written to the US Trade Representative Ron Kirk,
expressing his concerns.

"Congress has passed the law and the President has signed
it. Now we`re trying to understand, you know, its potential
implications. We will work closely with India as we implement
it," Crowley said in response to a question.

"As we work to administer this law, which Congress passed
and the President signed, we will try to understand fully the
potential impact that it has on individual companies in
India," he said.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, August 17, 2010 - 17:32

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