Donald Trump: H-1B can impact trade ties, say lobby groups

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NEW DELHI: The H-1B programme “needs to be looked at from the global services trade perspective and discriminatory actions could have a negative effect on the US-India trade relationship”. This is what seems to be the feedback of advocacy groups that have been talking to both sides over this issue.

Mukesh Aghi, president of the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum that has been working with government and industry members on the issue, said there should be a level playing field for US and Indian IT companies. “No regulatory or legislative change should target Indian IT companies. Doing so makes it more difficult to push for a level playing field in India for US companies,” he said.

“Both sides are willing to find solutions. There is more collaboration than ever. This issue is being taken seriously. It should not be seen in isolation,” he added.

The group has said the H-1B visa issue cannot be looked at in isolation as it has the potential to influence geo-political and trade relations between the US and India. Aghi said it was important to note that in 2017 alone, Indian companies invested $17.9 billion in the US and that Indian IT companies created jobs in the United States and made American companies more competitive.

“These companies have recently ramped up hiring in the United States, as we saw with Infosys’ announcement to hire 10,000 Americans last May,” he added.

US authorities had recently said the Trump administration was not considering any proposal that would force H-1B visa holders to leave the country.

Reports had earlier emerged that the Trump administration was considering tightening of H-1B visa rules that could lead to deportation of some 7,50,000 Indians. Apart from meeting influential people during his foreign tours, PM Narendra Modi had also heard them out during his recent visit to Hyderabad to attend an event that saw the participation of US President Donald Trump‘s daughter. He is scheduled to travel to Davos in Switzerland for the World Economic Forum where Trump will also be present.

“In the next 10 years, India will be the largest consumer market. Both countries need each other, more than ever before, for both business and geopolitical interests. Trade between the countries has been increasing. Now the challenge in the near term is to take trade from $118billion to $150 billion. Both sides are cognisant of these goals and hopefully will consider them before letting any discriminatory policy take shape,” Aghi said.

The advocacy firm has also welcomed the decision of the government to allow foreign airlines to invest up to 49% in debt-ridden Air India, and eased norms for investment in single brand retail, construction and power exchanges. “It is a very welcome move and does provide some opportunity, but multi-brand retail is what will bring scale and volume,” he said.

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