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Updated: March 18, 2011 11:34 IST

India raises visa fee hike, but U.S. highlights trade barriers

Sujay Mehdudia
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Union Minister for Commerce and Indusrties Anand Sharma with U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke in New Delhi on Monday. Photo: S. Subramanium
Union Minister for Commerce and Indusrties Anand Sharma with U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke in New Delhi on Monday. Photo: S. Subramanium

Non-tariff barriers limit trade and investment: Gary Locke

While remaining unmoved by India's concern at the visa fee increase for IT professionals, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke expressed concern on Monday at tariff and non-tariff barriers in India.

Mr. Locke, leading a 24-member business delegation, was addressing journalists after meeting Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma here. Besides reviewing trade ties, both sides discussed wide-ranging issues, including the World Trade Organisation, the visa fee increase and outsourcing.

“Even though India has made tremendous strides in opening up its economy, there is much more work… left to be done,” Mr. Locke said. “While many tariffs have come down, others remain. Even when there are no outright tariffs, there are non-tariff barriers that limit trade and investment.”

Mr. Sharma raised the increase in the fees for some categories of visas (H-1B and L1) that are mainly used by Indian IT professionals and stressed that the Obama administration should not take any step detrimental to their interests. “We hope that there will not be any measure which negatively impacts the movement of professionals between the two countries, particularly our IT professionals in the U.S,” he told the press.

Asked whether India would drag the U.S. to the WTO, he said: “I don't think we have reached that stage.”

Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar said the two countries were trying to work out a solution.

Both sides also discussed the issue of market access, reduction in trade barriers and technology transfer for solar power plants. The bilateral trade stood at $50 billion in 2010.

Mr. Sharma said the U.S. struck the Indian Space Research Organisation and the Defence Research and Development Organisation off the list of restricted entities. The step would enable the firms to import high-end technologies and sensitive items without licence. The U.S. also decided to drop nine Indian companies into space and defence technologies from the list, a move that would boost trade in high technology. “They have removed all export controls. Mr. Locke confirmed that they have completed all their internal procedures, and the Indian companies now stand removed from those lists,” he said.

From now, there would be full cooperation in space and nuclear and other high-end technologies between the U.S. and India.

Both sides also discussed the commencement of negotiations for a free trade pact.

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