Visa issues, patents to dominate India-US trade talks

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on July 11, 2013

Anand Sharma to push for pact on social security, LNG export

While concerns on visa restrictions for Indian professionals top the country’s agenda in the India-US high-level bilateral trade talks that started on Thursday, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma will also make a case for allowing LNG exports to India and the need to finalise a social security agreement that would save over $1 billion of annual contributions made by temporary Indian workers.

Sharma, who is scheduled to meet US Trade Representative Mike Froman, US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, and US Secretary of State John Kerry, over the next two days, is also prepared to defend India’s intellectual property regime and domestic sourcing norms that are likely to come in for criticism, a Commerce Department official told Business Line.

Sharma, on a four-day official visit to the US, will try to dissuade the US Government from going ahead with the controversial Immigration Bill, which could lead to imposition of heavy penalties on Indian IT companies that recruit a large number of Indians in their US operations.

The Minister is also likely to highlight the sharp hike in rejection rates for visa applications, the rigorous visa interviews faced by professionals and the hike in professional visa fees.

India’s interest in sourcing LNG from the US is also likely to be highlighted by the Minister, who may ask for a favourable decision on export of the fuel to India.

The US Department of Energy is in the process of making an assessment of LNG exports to countries with which it does not have a Free Trade Agreement and will then decide on pending applications for LNG export authorisations.

Totalisation pact

Sharma will also press for early conclusion of the social security or totalisation agreement that would give a waiver to Indian professionals working for a short period in the US from contributing to social security.

“India has recently submitted to the US the contours of a similar agreement signed with Canada and we hope that the US, too, would see the merits of signing a totalisation pact with us,” the official said.

The US is likely to raise concerns about India’s IP regime which, the pharmaceutical lobby has been saying, is proving to be too restrictive for patent holders. India’s domestic sourcing norms in the telecom and solar energy sectors are also likely to come in for criticism.

Sharma will speak at the US India Business Council’s 38th Leadership Summit, address the Round table with National Association of Manufacturers and interact with senior business representatives at the US-India CEOs Forum Meeting in Washington.

He is also scheduled to hold one-on-one meetings with Walmart CEO Scot Price, and eBay Global Policy Head Ted Cohen.

Published on July 11, 2013

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