Saturday, Jun 14, 2003
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By Sridhar Krishnaswami
The assurance was given by the United States Trade Representative, Robert Zoellick, to the Union Minister of Commerce and Industry, Arun Jaitley.
The Union Minister, during a discussion with Mr. Zoellick, had said that restrictions by way of anti-outsourcing measures "are completely contrary to the spirit of market access.''
Meeting members of the media here on Thursday, Mr. Jaitley said that Mr. Zoellick was "very appreciative'' of our stance.
Mr. Zoellick had maintained that these proposals coming from States were "bad policies'' and that the "Federal Government opposes it and is trying to resist it.''
"We have taken up the issue and I am sure that the industries that are entitled to cost-effective and quality services would watch for its own interests,'' he said.
Over the last two days, the Union Minister had talks with a number of senior officials and functionaries of the Bush administration, including Mr. Zoellick and the Commerce Secretary, Don Evans. Mr. Jaitley raised a number of bilateral and multilateral issues and concerns of India, especially as it pertained to agriculture, industrial goods and market access.
"Wherever concerns we have we raised it with the United States,'' he said. Bilaterally issues such as generalised scheme of preferences, shrimp and mango exports and the totalisation agreement are some of the things that were dealt with.
The Minister was the keynote speaker at the Relaunch of the United States-India Commercial Dialogue and also made a presentation at the Carnegie Endowment.
From a bilateral perspective one of the issues that came up was the refund of social security contributions made by Indian professionals who came to the U.S. for temporary work.
Under the existing domestic law, 15 per cent of the wages goes to the social security fund and benefits could be availed of only after 10 years or 40 quarters.
Most of the Indian professionals had come on a three-year visa eligible for extension for another three years.
Their contribution to the social security fund is in the neighbourhood of $ 500 millions annually.
Mr. Zoellick has apparently made the point that the subject of any refund could be made only to a comparable social security system in India; and New Delhi has responded saying that while there may be no centralised social security system in India similar to the one in the U.S., there was a "multi-layered'' system of social security in India.
Among other things, India is asking the U.S. to look into this issue in the way Washington has dealt with a group of other countries.
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