Millennium Post

Sharma to seek more US farm market access, raise visa issue

India is expected to press for greater market access for its agri products, particularly mangoes, pomegranates and litchis, and raise the visa issue during a meeting with a top US official on Thursday. These issues are likely to come up during the bilateral meeting of Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma with US trade representative Mike Froman. Sharma is on a four-day visit to the country.

'India hopes that issues that currently constrain effective market access of Indian agricultural goods including mangoes, pomegranates and litchis can be resolved soon. Market access issues have held back bilateral cooperation,' an official said.

While India has been seeking market access for exports of litchis to the country, the matter is stuck with the US Environmental Protection Agency, that is raising issues of Maximum Residue Limit of sulphur-di-oxide. Although the US has allowed import of Indian mangoes in April, 2007, the
proposal is not working well in view of the pre-condition of irradiation imposed by America.

India has been insisting that the responsibility of the pre-clearance inspection in this regard should be shifted to National Plant Protection Organisation. On the visa issue, Sharma may make a case for doing away with protectionism specially with regard to free movement of professionals in addition to goods.

'India has been expressing its concern on protectionist measures, including visa related impediments that has affected the mobility of our professionals particularly in IT sector to USA,' the official said.New Delhi has also raised concerns over reports that suggest that the Senators may be considering proposals (under Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill) that seek to deny access to visas or place additional visa related restrictions.

Any legislation that seeks to selectively apply visa related restrictions only against Indian IT business interest in the US may impact the common efforts to strengthen economic and trade cooperation, the official added.

The US government's decision to centralise Blanket L visa at Chennai Consulate is another area of concern to the Indian IT industry. Now all Indian and US firms have to send applicants to Chennai to get Blanket L visas stamped for their employees.
'This measure defeats the whole purpose of having Consular operations at various missions in countries such as India. Applicants will have to travel more than 2000 Km from East and North India to get US visa.

'This measure, an absolute logistical nightmare for companies, is being termed as another measure to make the visa processing troublesome for companies that use India talent in their Global sourcing model,' the official added.
Finance Minister P Chidambaram arrived here on Tuesday while Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia will reach on Thursday. Chidambaram, Sharma and Ahluwalia will all be making a pitch for India among American corporate captains at the 38th
anniversary leadership summit of the US-India Business Council (USIBC) here on Thursday.
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