Swaraj raises visa fee hike, totalisation pact with US Secretary Kerry

Cyrus Mistry Chairman of Tata Group will co-chair the meeting from Indian side. Express
Cyrus Mistry Chairman of Tata Group will co-chair the meeting from Indian side. Express
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02 September, 2016

The omnibus USA spending bill for this fiscal year, Public Law 114-113, tacked on thousands of dollars of fees to guest-worker visas that critics say let companies replace American citizens with lower-paid foreign workers.

In the afternoon, the S&CD Plenary is scheduled to be held and will be led from the Indian side by India's External Affairs Minister, Mrs. Sushma Swaraj and Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Mrs Nirmala Sitharaman. "But given the concerns expressed by Indian industry, I committed to Minister [Nirmala] Sitharaman to look into this and report back".

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker promised to look into India's concerns about moves to increase fees for a type of guest-worker visa held predominantly by the country's citizens. But pointed out Indians get 70% of the H1B visa the United States issues and 30% of L1 visa that U.S. issues all over the world.

"They also looked forward to the immediate commencement of work on engineering and site design and early conclusion of a competitive financing package based on the joint work by India and the US Export-Import Bank", it added. The current S& CD would be reviewing the progress made so far in strengthening the agreed upon issues and lay down the road map for the ensuing year, under the two tracks.

"In line with the CEO Forum recommendations, a number of concrete measures have been undertaken", the statement said.

The US CEOs were here for the India-CEO Forum meet which is part of the second Strategic and Commercial Dialogue.

Raising concerns over hike in visa fee for professionals, India Tuesday asked the United States to find a "just and non-discriminatory" solution to the issue to avoid any adverse effect on the bilateral trade ties.

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A new work stream is also being proposed in the current S&CD meeting on the area of Tourism Sector.

Both sides will also facilitate collaboration in research in health sector, specifically focusing on non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular ailments, diabetics and cancer, she added.

Both countries discussed their priorities for economic development and the policies initiated to achieve these objectives and agreed to continue their engagement for fulfilling the potential for bilateral trade between the two largest democracies in the world.

On APEC, Swaraj said India's membership at the forum has both "strategic significance as it has commercial potential" for India.

To a question about the possibility of a bilateral free trade agreement, the minister said there is a possibility of an FTA.

"I don't think that's true (Indian IT professionals being targeted). The 2017 GES will be a significant opportunity to highlight how our governments can serve as a partner to entrepreneurs by promoting and enacting policies and programs that help our innovators thrive", it said quoting Pritzker. They seek to build on the growth in bilateral trade from $37 billion in 2005 to $109 billion in 2015, with a new aim of reaching an annual $500 billion in the near future.


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