US Hopes Visa Hike Would not Hurt India Business Ties

By Arun Kumar

Washington, Aug 18 (IANS) Amid reports that India may take it to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for a new law to hike worker visa fees, the United States hopes it would not affect their long term economic partnership

"What I can say is that we understand the Government of India's concerns," State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters Tuesday when asked to comment on reports that India was considering a complaint to WTO.

"We realise it could impact Indian companies that invest in the United States and we also understand the potential impact on Indians who work in the United States as well as some American businesses," he said.

"But we remain confident that our long-term economic partnership with India will continue to deepen and provide benefits for both societies," Toner said.

"It's within India's purview to do that," he said when pressed about the possibility of India's complaint to WTO. "Again, I think we remain cognizant of the effect that this legislation may have on India, and we're going to try to work with them to mitigate it."

"But beyond that, I don't have a reaction. I mean, we've got a robust economic partnership with India," Toner said.

The spokesman's comments came amid reports that Indian Trade Secretary Rahul Khullar had described the new US visa restrictions as not compatible with WTO regulations.

"Yes, this is WTO incompatible. I have no doubt about it," he was quoted as saying in a (Reuters) news agency report.

The law signed by President Barack Obama Friday steeply hikes H1-B and L worker visa fees in the case of companies whose workforce is less than half American to raise $ 600 million to strengthen security along the border with Mexico.

The Indian government has protested to Washington against what it calls a highly discriminatory law that would largely affect Indian IT firms like Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys Technologies, Wipro and Mahindra Satyam.

Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma has said that bill would cost Indian companies an extra $200 million a year and erode the competitiveness of Indian companies that send professionals to undertake projects in the United States. He has also written to the US Trade Representative Ron Kirk about it.


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