NEW DELHI, April 10 India has launched a
complaint at the World Trade Organisation over the cost of U.S.
work visas, which it says are too high and discriminate against
a group of Indian IT firms, in the latest sign of prickly trade
ties between the two allies.
The complaint is at the level of WTO "consultations" between
the two parties - the last step to resolve a disagreement before
entering a full-fledged legal dispute.
"India is taking up consultations on this issue and hopes to
solve it amicably," an official at the trade ministry said on
Wednesday, asking not to be named because of the sensitivity of
The official did not say when the complaint was taken to the
WTO, but said Trade Minister Anand Sharma raised the visa issue
with U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson on a visit to India on
Last month, the United States began the same type of action
at the WTO to open India's market for poultry meat and eggs,
saying an Indian ban on U.S. imports intended to stop the spread
of bird flu was not based on sound science.
A U.S. embassy spokesman had no immediate comment.
Commercial ties between India and the United States
flourished after India's economic liberalisation in 1991, but in
recent years each side have accused the other of erecting unfair
barriers to trade and investment growth.
India's economy has benefitted greatly from information
technology firms doing offshore work for U.S. companies, but
such outsourcing has become an issue in the U.S. presidential
campaign, with President Barack Obama vowing to woo jobs home
India's complaint is about a U.S. law from 2010 that almost
doubled visa fees for skilled workers to $4,500 per applicant.
The bill's sponsor, Senator Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New
York, said at the time that the move was aimed at a small group
of companies exploiting U.S. law to import workers from abroad.
"I think the government of India is right that this is a
barrier to trade," Vineet Nayyar, CEO of large Indian software
services exporter Tech Mahindra, told Reuters on Tuesday.
However, Nayyar said Indian industry did not expect visa
fees to be reduced and would either become more efficient or
raise prices marginally to offset the cost.
"I think by and large the Indian industry is taking for
granted that this will continue and we're trying to see how we
can manage it," he said.
(Reporting by Matthias Williams in NEW DELHI and Harichandan
Arakali in BANGALORE; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; editing by
Tony Munroe and Ron Popeski)