The commerce ministry has taken up with the Prime Minister’s Office and the home ministry a proposal to liberalise visa rules for easier movement of professionals so that services trade gets a leg-up, a senior government official said on Tuesday.
The proposal seems aimed at not just boosting services trade, but also conveying India’s seriousness in walking the talk should other countries endorse its views on greater liberalisation in services trade. Moreover, such a step would boost programmes like ‘Make in India’ and ‘Digital India’.
The commerce ministry is seeking easier visa rules in areas, including tourism, business visits, healthcare, and people wishing to come to the country to attend seminars and conferences. Commerce secretary Rita Teaotia is learnt to have held discussion on the issue at the PMO on Tuesday.
The ministry isn’t advocating a liberalised visa regime with some other nations on a strictly reciprocal basis, but as a step to usher in the era of freer movement of professionals to boost trade.
Trade analysts feel such a move could also put pressure on countries like the US, which have resorted to protectionist measures that are hurting the Indian industry.
Already, India and the US are engaged in a bilateral consultation process at the World Trade Organization (WTO) on the US move to drastically hike the H-1B and L-1 visa charges, which is estimated to quadruple the Indian IT industry’s annual visa costs to $400 million.
The services sector has assumed importance in India’s trade talks with other nations in recent years, as it accounts for more than a half of the country’s gross domestic product, 28 per cent of its jobs, 35 per cent of its total exports and 20 per cent of its imports, showed the official data.
Still, the country’s services exports make up for just over 3 per cent of the global services exports, suggesting that the sector’s vast potential is yet to be properly tapped. FE