BUSINESS

FICCI slams U.S. offer on services

Narrow definition of `speciality occupation'

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Criticising the revised offers on services by the U.S. in the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) on Monday said the latest offers failed to address the basic market access problems faced by Indian professionals like engineers, architects, IT-professionals and others in the U.S.

The apex industry body said the U.S. in its revised offers on services has retained restrictions like quotas, labour conditions and requirement of licensing in each U.S. state and narrow definition of `speciality occupation' for Mode-4 (Movement of Natural Persons) supply of services.

It said one of the fundamental problems in the revised offers was that it had continued with a narrow definition of `speciality occupation,' which was not clear. As per its commitments in the WTO, the U.S. provided market access under Mode-4 only to persons engaged in `speciality occupation.'

And under United States Code `speciality occupation' means an occupation that requires theoretical and practical application of a body of a `highly specialised knowledge' and attainment of a bachelor's or `higher degree' in the specific speciality.

FICCI said both terms — `highly specialised knowledge' and `higher degree' — were not clearly specified and leave much room for interpretation.

It further said that in order to have effective market access for Indian professionals it was important that such terms were pre-defined and were not left for interpretation at the time of application for visas.

Second, FICCI said the U.S. had retained a quota limit of 65,000 persons annually on worldwide basis for entry of foreign professionals. Actually there should not be any numerical limit on the entry of professionals and they should be allowed to provide services as per the prevailing demand conditions in the U.S. market.

If this is not acceptable then, FICCI said the U.S. needed to give commitment for a higher limit under WTO so that the market access for Indian professionals became more predictable.

At present, the U.S. annually changes its limit or quota for the entry of foreign professionals, which brings uncertainty about the extent of market access provided.

Third, FICCI said the U.S. had retained labour market conditions such as wage-parity and displacement. Foreign professionals could only provide services in the U.S. if the actual wage paid by the U.S. employer to foreign professionals was greater than the actual wage paid by the employer to individuals in that place of employment with similar qualifications and experience.

Even in its revised offer the U.S. had not provided market access for one of the largest pool of our professionals — doctors, nurses, dentists, paramedics and the like.

Further in its revised offer, the U.S. haf removed the additional commitment it had undertaken in its initial offer for various professionals such as architects and engineers.

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