Macro Economy

India to raise H-1B issue in talks with USTR next week

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on January 27, 2018

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Commerce Ministry to defend duty on Harley-Davidson motorbikes

The first round of talks between the US Trade Representative’s (USTR) office under the Donald Trump administration and India’s Commerce Ministry will kick off next week, giving New Delhi the opportunity to discuss its apprehensions on new work visa restrictions being considered by the US Congress.

India is also set to defend import levies on automobiles and motorcycles as the US may raise the issue of the high duties imposed on Harley Davidson bikes, a government official told BusinessLine.

Assistant USTR Mark Linscott will lead the US delegation, which will hold talks on April 18 with a team led by Anup Wadhawan, Additional Secretary in the Commerce Ministry.

“While USTR-designate Robert Lighthizer is yet to be confirmed by the Senate, the USTR’s office is ready to begin discussions. We are hopeful that our exchange on the legislative bills introduced in the US Congress to place more restrictions on visas for skilled workers will help in discouraging their implementation,” said the official.

Contentious issues

India is concerned about two Bills — one that proposes doubling the minimum wage for such visas to $130,000 from $60,000, and the other, which proposes to bar companies with more than 50 employees, of which at least half are H1-B or L1 holders, from hiring more H1-B employees.

While the office of the US Secretary of State has indicated that getting the work visa Bill passed is a lower priority for the Trump government compared to issues such as illegal migrants and the growing trade deficit with China, they remain a threat.

A team of support staff of US Congress members will also meet Commerce Ministry officials. “The support staff are influential as they advise US Congress members on various issues, including the Bills to support and reject. If the support staff is convinced by Indian officials of the futility of imposing more restrictions on work visas, it may help in getting the Bills blocked,” the official said.

Indian IT companies generate $65 billion worth of business in the US, according to industry estimates, and tightening the leash on them could hurt large US companies such as GE, Boeing and Cisco, which do a lot of business in India.

The USTR team is likely to raise its own set of issues, including import duties on motorcycles, possible tightening of India’s intellectual property regime and the new procurement policy.

Published on April 13, 2017

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