Raising concerns over hike in visa fee for professionals, India Tuesday asked the US to find a “just and non-discriminatory” solution to the issue to avoid any adverse effect on the bilateral trade ties.
“The issue of totalisation and recent fee hike for H1B and L1 visa has affected our people-to-people exchanges, which is a vital source of strength for our relationship. …I would urge you to find a just and non-discriminatory solution to these issues,” External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said at the plenary session of the second Strategic and Commercial Dialogue (S&CD) New Delhi. Speaking at the session, Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman too said that some of the stakeholders have raised concerns regarding steps which have potential to act as barriers to the movement of natural persons and professionals.
“The concerns of our government in this regard have been conveyed in the past and we could hope that specific measures like these having potential to adversely impact our trade are avoided,” she said. The statement assumes significance as India has time and again raised the issue of hike in visa fees by the US. The country has also filed a case in the WTO against the US decision to impose high fees on temporary working visas. Further, Sitharaman said that there is tremendous optimism regarding the promise and growing realisation of the potential for trade and investment between the two nations.
“The onus is purely on all of us to work together to strengthen the partnership between India and the US, as this partnership will have a significant role in shaping the global trade,” the commerce minister said. She also said that significant progress has been made on the recommendations made by the India-US CEO Forum on issues like standards, ease of doing business, innovation, entrepreneurship, infrastructure and smart city project. There has been significant progress in trading across borders, she said, adding that on the policy of ‘minimum government and maximum governance’, there has been a conscious effort to make India a global hub for innovation, design and development.
Further she said that both the sides should identify and pick up some high growth potential hubs and facilitate partnership in other areas of technology and design. In addition to bilateral engagements, the countries are working closely on important international fora including the WTO and international financial institutions like World Bank and IMF and UNSC for institutional reform and unfinished agendas.
Swaraj said in view of the rapidly evolving regional and global situation, India looks forward to resuming the meeting of the Trilateral with Afghanistan; consultations on Africa and on multilateral issues within this year. Asserting that India’s enhanced global role was in mutual interest, she said, “It is in this context, we look forward to continue working closely with the US to secure our membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and permanent membership of the UN Security Council.”
She also pitched for expansion of defence cooperation to the next stage of co-production and co-development. “For this, we need to define the benefits associated with India’s designation as a ‘Major Defence Partner’ of the US during Prime Minister’s visit in June. This would spur defence industry collaboration between India and the US and help India play the desired role as a net provider of security in the region,” Swaraj added.
She also said the two sides have been able to conclude a Framework for the India-US Cyber Relationship, the first of its kind both for India and the US, with any other country. She also pitched for a “just and non-discriminatory solution” to the issue of totalisation and recent fee hike for H1B and L1 visa that has “affected our people-to-people exchanges, which was a vital source of strength for our relationship”.
Asserting that India attaches high importance to the Dialogue, Swaraj said it develops greater synergy and coherence in the engagements across the spectrum. Reiterating India’s commitment for implementation of the Paris Agreement, she said the government was taking steps domestically to compress the timeline for our ratification of the Agreement.
“We hope that the next US Administration will continue to support the Paris Agreement with the same seriousness and purpose as you have done, and that the goal of mobilising USD 100 billion per year from developed countries, will be met with firm support from the US government,” she said. Swaraj also talked about the need to step up collaboration in the area of clean energy that will make it viable for us to make quantum transition to renewable energy away from fossil fuel, and achieve our ambitious climate goals.