Faced with what it calls a discriminatory regime, India is exploring various options, including legal, to take on the United States on its new Southwest Border Security Bill, that would lead to a phenomenal rise in visa fee for H-1B and L-1 type of visas — something that could hurt Indian companies and its professionals.
The issue is also likely to figure strongly in the bilateral meetings that Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma proposes to have with his U.S. counterparts in Washington next month. Mr. Sharma will be there to attend the meeting of the trade policy forum to take forward discussions on the totalisation agreement that will allow expatriate workers to not have to repatriate their social security contribution.
Mr. Sharma, who has already conveyed his serious concern to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, will take up with Washington the new form of non-tariff barrier to services trade.
Mr. Sharma is expected to convey that the Bill, signed by President Barack Obama on Friday, could hurt India-U.S. bilateral relations as the move was not compatible with World Trade Organisation norms.
Sources in the Commerce Ministry said the matter was very serious, and the Ministry was already in consultation with the External Affairs and Communications Ministries to deal with this new situation. The government is also understood to have sought legal opinion on the matter — whether this move could be taken up in international fora, including the WTO, as it was discriminatory against Indian companies and its people.
It is understood that Mr. Sharma is also likely to take up the matter during his visit to China next week in order to work out a joint strategy to deal with the issue, if at all collective action could be taken.
Although it is argued that granting of visas is not part of the WTO's framework, it does not mean that a country can discriminate between two sets of companies located in its territory.
Article VI of the WTO's General Agreement on Trade in Services specifies that domestic regulations of all countries should be administered in a reasonable, objective and impartial manner.