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India seeks easier visas for service professionals
May, 28th 2008

Even as the World Trade Organisation (WTO) released the proposed guidelines to open up the services markets, India has sought easier visas for its professionals providing services in developed countries.

Fernando de Mateo, the chairman of the WTO Council for Trade in Services, released the report on services on Monday. The report asks member countries to commit to providing market access in sectors where many trade barriers exist. Draft texts on agriculture and non-agriculture market access have already been released.

Commerce Secretary Gopal K Pillai today said the report put a number of topics of India's interest in square brackets, which means there is no agreement on them. "Mode 1 and Mode 4 services market access have been put in square brackets. Moreover, the report does not say much about issues like domestic regulation which are extremely important for liberalisation of the service sector trade to succeed," Pillai said at a Ficci seminar.

Mode 1 trade in services is related to cross-border supply of services like international phone calls, while Mode 4 deals with professionals traveling abroad to supply services. India has a lot of interest in these two modes as they pertain to the infotech sector, among others.

Outlining the importance of Mode 4, Pillai said: "We do not want immigration. Indian firms winning contracts abroad need to send their professionals to execute them. We want to ensure that visas to such professionals are not denied".

Pillai said many developed countries which claimed to be open to business houses from abroad had stringent domestic regulations. "As a result, it becomes extremely difficult for overseas firms to set up bases in such countries".

The ongoing WTO talks will not lead to India opening up the legal services sector to foreign firms, Commerce Secretary Gopal K Pillai has said. However, he said permitting foreign legal firms into India to deal with arbitration cases as well as mergers and acquisitions would be beneficial. "The Indian legal services sector needs reforms, which involve issues related to limited liability, the number of partners and advertising restrictions," he said.

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