India has “very strongly” raised the issue of H-1B and L1 visas
with the US, Union minister Suresh Prabhu said on Saturday, asserting that the
American economy will find it difficult to cope with the reality as it has been
immensely benefited by Indian IT professionals.
The US has tightened the
norms for issuing the most sought-after H-1B and L1 visas in line with the
Trump administration’s goal to protect American workers from discrimination and
replacement by foreign labour.
In a new directive, the Trump
administration this week made it more difficult for the renewal of H-1B
and L1, popular among Indian IT professionals, saying that the burden of proof
lies on the applicant even when an extension is sought.
Under the current US rules,
Indian IT professionals working in the US on H-1B visas do not get back their
hard- earned contribution to Social Security, which runs into at least more than
US $1 billion per annum.
“We raised very strongly the
issue of Indian professionals and H-1B and L1 visa issues,” Prabhu said after
the first US-India bilateral Trade Policy Forum (TPF) under the Trump
administration which was also attended by US Trade Representative Robert
“We explained to them that we
are not raising this issue because Indians will find it difficult to come,
because US economy itself will find it difficult to cope with the reality
because the US has immensely benefited by IT professionals penetrating into the
market by offering services that has improved their productivity,” Prabhu said.
Batting for Indian IT
companies, he also strongly raised the issue of totalisation.
“I hope they will look into
the issue,” Prabhu said, as he pointed out towards the issue of mismatch
between US visa and US social security regimes, wherein Indian professionals
making social security contributions do not receive their due benefits upon
their return to India.
Meanwhile, the US and India have also agreed to address the
issue of trade deficit by increasing and diversifying bilateral trade, the
minister said as he sought easing of procedures for export of mangoes and
pomegranates to the US.
Taking note of America’s
concern on price controls on medical devices, Prabhu, during his meetings with
Lighthizer on Thursday, encouraged US companies to take benefit of the “Make in
India” policy and establish manufacturing facilities in India which would
considerably bring down the cost.
During the inaugural India-US
Commercial dialogue, US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross stressed on the need to
increase bilateral trade between the two countries to address the issue of
trade imbalance, a point which keeps on popping up in the remarks of US
President Donald Trump.
Reducing imports from India
is not an option, Ross was quoted as saying by Prabhu.
“The Commerce Secretary
clearly said that trade deficit is an issue, but not by reducing imports from
India but promoting more exports from the US to India which is absolutely a
very positive and an extremely forward-looking idea, which we welcome,” Prabhu
told reporters at the conclusion of his two-day visit to Washington DC.
In the next few years’ time,
India would actually be able to buy more from the US.
India has started buying
crude oil from the US, he said, adding that there is great potential for the
United States in the fast expanding aviation market in India.
Indian aviation companies
such as Spicejet and Jet Airways have placed orders for over 300 aircraft worth
several billions of dollars.
As American companies shift
their manufacturing base from China to the US, this would also result in more
American export to India, Prabhu said.
He said that the two countries have agreed to work on the issue
of poultry, pork and intellectual property right.
“We already have made some substantial
progress,” he said.
Acknowledging that there is a very
strong issue on medical devices, Prabhu said he explained to his American
counterpart that public health is a priority issue for the Indian government.
“This is something we would have to
balance between the commercial interest and the larger public interest,” he
said, adding that there is a review due early next year, during which concerns
of the US would be relayed back to the reviewers.
Prabhu said that his meetings have
yielded very positive results in removal of barriers in export of Indian
mangoes to the US.
While the US market was opened up for
Indian mangoes during the tenure of former president George W Bush, in reality
it has been tough because of the tough irradiation procedure adopted by the US,
which not only makes its very expensive, but is also time consuming.
India has been demanding that
pre-clearance be transferred to Indian National Plant Protection Organisation,
which is well equipped and trained to do the necessary inspection and meet the
“Of course, you should get Pomegranates
and Table Grapes also,” Prabhu said, referring to the progress made in removing
hurdles towards export of these products to the US.
Prabhu said, India has sought
cooperation from the US on certain technology sectors like artificial
intelligence, electric vehicles and aviation.
While acknowledging significant areas of
progress in the commercial relationship, Prabhu and Ross shared candid feedback
on a range of market access issues that can be addressed to expand trade and
Ross highlighted the potential to
enhance trade by lowering tariff and non-tariff barriers and committing to the
use of international standards.
While recognising the reforms that India
has undertaken to simplify tax and bankruptcy procedures for industry, he
indicated that greater effort in this direction would ensure a more meaningful
and balanced trade relationship.
Prabhu appreciated the growing strategic
and economic relationship between India and the US.
Emphasising the liberalisation measures
undertaken in India, he reaffirmed his government’s commitment to make India a
favoured investment destination.
While responding to US concerns on price
controls on medical devices, Prabhu mentioned about the need to bring about a
balance between providing optimum medical facilities and affordable health care
to its citizens.
India desires to address the concerns of
providing healthcare to its citizens at reasonable costs and balancing it with
the need to introduce high-end technology, he said as he encouraged American
companies and manufacturers of medical devices to establish manufacturing
facilities in India.
He also pointed out that the Draft
Pharmaceutical Policy addresses many of the US concerns and sought comments
from industry stakeholders on the draft policy.