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India nudges WTO services council to deliberate on movement of professionals

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on March 11, 2018 Published on March 11, 2018

Loud silence While members express concern over growing protectionism for goods, not much is said about restrictions on movement of professionals, feels India   -  jxfzsy

Brazil, Turkey, Bangladesh support move; US, EU and Canada cautious

To bring back focus on growing constraints on movement of professionals across the globe, India has pressed the World Trade Organisation’s Services Council to organise a seminar on the issue.

“Several developing countries such as Turkey, Brazil, Bangladesh, Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador, Argentina and Peru supported India’s proposal,” a Geneva-based official close to the development told BusinessLine.

However, developed country members including the US, Canada, Norway and the European Union said they need to consider the proposed programme in detail, but were open for constructive engagement.

“The Chairman of the WTO Council on Services decided to organise informal consultations on the programme for the event,” the Geneva-based official added.

According to a Commerce Ministry official, the event on Mode 4 (movement of professionals) would revive interest on how countries could work on improving mobility of workforce from one country to the other which has taken a beating over the past few years.

“While everyone is expressing concern over growing protectionism across countries in the area of goods, not much is said about restrictions on movement of professionals. This is a serious problem which is affecting several developing countries, including India, especially in sectors such as IT,” the official said.

Moreover, several members were also promoting discussions in other areas in the WTO Services Council such as negotiations on rules in e-commerce and cross border supply of services. India too feels the need to get pro-active and push aggressively the areas where it has an advantage over others.

“It would be difficult to convince members to open up their markets for professionals by easing visa rules, but the discussion has to be kept alive. This will also ensure that the fresh restrictions being imposed by members including the US, the EU and Australia are scrutinised and criticised with the aim of getting them rolled back,” the official said. Mode 4 is one of the four modes recognised by the WTO for provision of services and refers to the presence of persons of one WTO member in the territory of another for the purpose of providing a service. It does not concern persons seeking access to the employment market in the host member, nor does it affect measures regarding citizenship, residence or employment on a permanent basis.

Published on March 11, 2018
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