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Former envoys urge US Congress to remove India-specific immigration barriers

Envoys say the bill unfortunately differentiates between US & Indian providers of IT services.

Written by Press Trust Of India | Washington |
September 12, 2013 9:27:51 am

Five former US Ambassadors to India have requested the Congress to remove India-specific discriminatory provisions in immigration reform,underscoring that continuation of such steps would have an adverse impact on the bilateral relationship between the two countries.

Related: US Immigration Bill: IT Inc sees rays of hope

In a letter to top lawmakers,these former envoys observed that American competitiveness and vitality depend heavily on robust US-India commercial ties.

Related: TCS to be worst hit if US immigration Bill gets nod

They further said any comprehensive immigration reform legislation approved by the Congress needs to appreciate the mutual benefit of deepening the bilateral partnership,which is vitally important to the two countries and global economy.

The letters were addressed to the Speaker of the House of Representatives John A Boehner,Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid,Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell,and the House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

The letter was jointly signed by former US Ambassadors to India – Thomas Pickering,Frank Wisner,Richard Celeste,David Mulford and Robert Blackwill.

“While we believe that the US Congressional efforts to further Comprehensive Immigration Reform can be of great benefit,we are concerned that the high-skilled visa provisions in legislation currently contemplated by the Senate are not in US economic interests and they complicate our relations with India,” they said.

The US India Business Council (USIBC) and the recently formed Coalition for Jobs and Growth worked with these five former US Ambassadors to India to reach Congress about American jobs and competitiveness.

The letter comes ahead of the scheduled meeting between the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President Barack Obama at the White House on September 27.

“We hope the visit of PM Manmohan Singh and his meeting with President Obama will reinvigorate the US-India ties,prompting the US Administration and Congress to take a second look and eliminate specific discriminatory provisions in the immigration reform bill,which will hurt American competitiveness and damage US-India commercial ties,” USIBC president Ron Somers said.

“We ask that any comprehensive immigration reform legislation approved by Congress appreciates the mutual benefit of deepening the US-India partnership,which is vitally important to our two countries and the global economy,” Somers said in his letter to the Congressional leaders accompanying the Ambassadors letter.

In their letter,the five former envoys write that the Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation that has passed the US Senate unfortunately differentiates between US providers of IT services,and Indian IT companies including Infosys,Tata Consultancy Services (TCS),HCL Technologies,which provide the same services to American businesses using virtually the same labour pool sourced from India.

“In particular,the bill will block Indian IT companies (as well as significant US IT service providers) from providing these essential services,and free-market competition,to our leading US-based multinational companies.

Equally important,such legislation sends a protectionist signal to our Indian counterparts – a signal normally reserved for nations with whom we have non-productive relations. India does not fit this category,” the envoys argued.

“Many US companies entering the Indian market have found tremendous success. Others have struggled with Indian policies related to tariffs,intellectual property,tax treatment and local manufacturing requirements as well as needless interference by state and local officials,” the letter said.

“Our ongoing bilateral dialogue with India and not punitive legislation has,in the past,helped resolve differences.

Departing from this approach will not solve these problems. It risks provoking ‘tit for tat’ retaliation,which denigrates this important relationship,” the letter said.

“We would appreciate your bringing our concerns to the attention of those who are responsible for the preparation of final comprehensive immigration legislation,and ask that they revise those sections and remove those features of any Bill that would limit market entry of IT professionals who work for so-called Visa-dependent IT companies,” they said.

“These provisions,currently in the Senate Bill and any which may be included in the counterpart pending House Bill,are virtually punitive and cry out for redress and excision,” wrote the former American envoys.

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