Visas, social security pact to top India-US trade talks

NEW DELHI: India and the US will this week discuss a possible move towards a Totalisation Agreement — which will help Indian technology and other professionals avoid making social security contributions, which are not refunded — as well as a discussion on the recent H-1B visa ban by the Donald Trump administration.
The two issues are on the agenda for a meeting between commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal and American commerce secretary Wilbur Ross, in addition to New Delhi’s demand to acknowledge that there is no use of child labour in the manufacture of leather, footwear and other goods so that these products can be purchased by the US Army and other government entities.
There are close to two dozen products on the list. Several issues related to non-tariff barriers on Indian products, which restrict their access to the US, will also be taken up by Goyal, government sources told TOI. They, however, clarified that discussions around the trade deal, which have been pending for months will not be part of these deliberations as they are being handled by the US Trade Representative.

On its part, the US has flagged some of the safety rules that restrict the access of American chemicals into India, Select USA (akin to the ‘Make in India’ campaign) and other issues for discussions. The meeting is happening amid tensions at the Ladakh border and America’s own concerns with China. While some of the issues are unlikely to be settled immediately, given Trump’s “fair trade” rhetoric ahead of the presidential elections later this year, this will be the first time that US authorities will engage with their Indian counterparts on a possible Totalisation Agreement.
The move follows Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s discussions with Trump earlier this year where the two leaders agreed to begin a dialogue. “We are planning specific discussions on H-1B visas,” said a source in the government, adding that the other issue of student visas is being addressed by the US courts after several universities raised the red flag.

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