In­dia Lob­bies WTO to Ease Flow of Ser­vices, IT Pros

Sug­gests mul­ti­ple-en­try visa for those meet­ing host coun­try’s re­quire­ments as part of a com­pre­hen­sive plan

The Economic Times - - Front Page - Kir­tika.Suneja@ times­group.com

New Delhi: In­dia is lob­by­ing the World Trade Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WTO) to sup­port in­creased trade in ser­vices and mak­ing a case for al­low­ing its IT pro­fes­sion­als to work across bor­ders with greater ease amid a ris­ing tide of pro­tec­tion­ism.

The gov­ern­ment has sug­gested mul­ti­ple en­try visas for those who meet the host coun­try’s im­mi­gra­tion cri­te­ria in a com­pre­hen­sive pro­posal on cross-bor­der move­ment of ser­vices, said peo­ple aware of the mat­ter. In­dia has asked such coun­tries to rely on the com­pa­nies em­ploy­ing work­ers to judge their com­pe­tence as it looks to build a global con­sen­sus on cross-bor­der busi­ness work­ers.

In­dia made th­ese pro­pos­als in the draft le- gal text of the Trade Fa­cil­i­ta­tion Agree­ment for Ser­vices that it submitted to the WTO on Fe­bru­ary 23. The text has pro­vi­sions re­lat­ing to fa­cil­i­tat­ing trade in ser­vices and de­vel­op­ment as well as in­sti­tu­tional pro­vi­sions. It fol­lows a con­cept note floated in Oc­to­ber and a de­tailed el­e­ments pa­per in No­vem­ber last year.

ET has re­viewed a copy of the pro­posal, which will be taken up by an ex­pert com­mit­tee in Geneva on March 14-17, fol­low­ing which it will be put up for dis­cus­sion by all WTO mem­bers.

In­dia’s push comes amid ris­ing pro­tec­tion­ist sen­ti­ment in the US under Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, threat­en­ing In­dia’s multi-bil­lion dol­lar soft­ware in­dus­try.

In­dia has also pro­posed do­ing away with social se­cu­rity con­tri­bu­tions by pro­fes­sion­als on short stints over­seas. Since th­ese can’t be repa­tri­ated, In­dia has sug­gested work­ers be re­funded once they go back home. In­dia has been try­ing to con­vince the US to put in place a To­tal­i­sa­tion Agree­ment that will al­low this.

The pro­posal also calls for in­sur­ance porta­bil­ity and quicker visas for those seek­ing med­i­cal treat­ment.

How­ever, th­ese pro­vi­sions are on a so-called best en­deav­our ba­sis, which doesn’t re­quire bind­ing com­mit­ments from WTO mem­bers, said a Del­hibased trade ex­pert.

Cross-bor­der Data Flows, Info Ex­change

The pro­posal also sug­gests that coun­tries shouldn’t im­pose bar­ri­ers on the flow of per­sonal in­for­ma­tion on ac­count of dif­fer­ing data pro­tec­tion mea­sures. If adopted, this could help In­dia get data se­cure sta­tus, help­ing com­pa­nies win high-value out­sourc­ing con­tracts from the Europe Union.

Data pri­vacy and se­cu­rity have been contentious sub­jects in In­dia-EU talks on a Broad­based Trade and In­vest­ment Agree­ment. The EU is un­likely to agree to any pro­vi­sion that re­quires it to per­mit un­re­stricted data flows.

In­dia has also sought ex­change of statistics on trade in ser­vices for all four modes of sup­ply to re­duce the bur­den of data col­lec­tion. The four modes are-cross-bor­der sup­ply between coun­tries, con­sump­tion abroad, com­mer­cial pres­ence which in­cludes joint ven­tures between foreign ser­vice providers and do­mes­tic busi­nesses, and move­ment of peo­ple.

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