The Union Minister of Commerce and Industry, Anand Sharma, said measures such as the recently enacted Emergency Border Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, which raises visa fees for Indian IT professionals working in the U.S are “regressive.” “The U.S.., as the leading global economy, has to have more confidence while engaging with the rest of the world,” he said.
Speaking to the media after a visit to the Infosys campus in Bangalore, Mr. Sharma said he “is mindful of the challenges faced by the IT industry, particularly in the recent times.”
Referring to the option of going to the World Trade Organisation to address the threat of protectionism, Mr. Sharma said, “It is not a question of pursuing legal options.”
“Any mindset which is isolationist and inward-looking end up hutting economies and societies,” he remarked. “Protectionist measures end up deepening the recession,” he warned.
Mr. Sharma said the Indian IT industry has created 250,000 jobs in the U.S. in the last three years.
Mr. Sharma said on Friday here that he would raise the visa fee hike issue with the U.S. administration at the Trade Policy Forum (TPF) meeting on September 21 in Washington.
“We have put it on the agenda for the meeting and hope to get a reasonable response,” he said. The issue will also be discussed at the Global Services Summit to be held in Washington on September 22, he said.
Mr. Sharma said although there are signs of a global economic recovery, “I am for cautiously optimistic and for a measured and calibrated approach to incentives and economic stimulus.”
The Commerce Minister said he has already raised the issue with the U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, pointing out that the visa fee hike will impose an additional burden of $200 million on Indian IT companies.
“Although we recognize that there are domestic compulsions, countries have to adhere to their WTO commitments,” Mr. Sharma said. “Commitments must be honoured, and the bar must not be raised,” he said.
Asked to comment on the protectionist barriers raised against Indian It companies, Infosys Chairman and Chief Mentor N.R. Narayana Murthy said the Minister reflected the views of the It industry in India. “We have to keep innovating so that we offer value to our clients,” he added.