RCEP: Boost for India on easier visa norms

Some ASEAN nations back bid

India’s push for easier norms on movement of professionals across borders for short-term work in 16 Asia-Pacific nations, including itself, under a proposed mega Free Trade Agreement (FTA) — is learnt to have found favour with some ASEAN-bloc members.

The proposed FTA, officially known as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), is being negotiated by these countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

The RCEP technical level talks are currently going on in Hyderabad.

Travel card

A few ASEAN countries are also understood to be supporting India’s proposal for an RCEP Travel Card to facilitate visa-free multiple short-term entry across the RCEP region for business and tourism purposes.

Official sources told The Hindu that while some countries of the ten-member ASEAN bloc have supported India’s call for detailed discussions to have binding commitments on temporary movement of professionals as part of the RCEP agreement, Australia and New Zealand (who are RCEP members) are blocking the move. “These positions keep changing during the negotiations, but we (India) are trying (to secure India’s interests in the services sector),” an official privy to the negotiations said.

India, which has a vast pool of services professionals, including from IT/ITeS, sector, had been leading the talks on easing restrictions on temporary movement of professionals.

Allaying the fears of many RCEP member nations that it would lead to migration of professionals from India and loss of jobs for locals, India has been saying that its demands on temporary movement of professionals and skilled workers should not be confused with permanent movement (or immigration).

Meanwhile, Indian information technology industry body Nasscom informed the RCEP trade negotiators that the Indian IT-ITeS sector had supported 4.54 lakhjobs in the RCEP region (excluding India).

Gagan Sabharwal, director, Nasscom, also said the Indian IT sector was facing many problems in the RCEP region with regard to temporary movement of professionals.

Recommended for you