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
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.