Jaitley flags H-1B concerns with US Treasury Secretary

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has raised the issue of restrictions on H-1B visa with his US counterpart Steven Mnuchin as India fears the curb would impact the movement of Indian IT professionals to America.

During his meeting with the US Treasury Secretary, Jaitley also highlighted the contribution Indian companies and professionals are making to the US economy.

President Donald Trump has signed an executive order for tightening the rules of the H-1B visa programme to stop its 'abuse' and ensure that the visas are given to the 'most- skilled or highest paid' petitioners, a decision that would impact India's USD 150 billion IT industry. The Indian IT industry has expressed serious concerns over this as these visas are mainly used by domestic IT professionals for short-term work in America.

Earlier, the finance minister raised the visa issue with US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. An official statement said: "Jaitley raised the issue of H-1B visas for skilled professionals from India." Issues related to terror funding were also discussed in the meeting and the US Treasury Secretary appreciated the role of India in this regard, including Indo-US cooperation in Financial Action Task Force. These matters were discussed on Saturday on the sidelines of the Spring Meetings of the World Bank and IMF.

During the discussions, the statement said Jaitley pointed out India's ambitious reform agenda which is creating new opportunities towards a deeper economic engagement between both the countries in the years ahead.

"Critical economic issues like Indo-US investment initiative, infrastructure collaboration and NIIF (National Investment and Infrastructure Fund), collaboration with the US for Smart Cities Development were deliberated upon during the meeting," it added.

The Indian minister also held bilateral meetings with the finance ministers of Sweden, France and Bangladesh.

The H-1B is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialised fields. Indian technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year for their US operations.

Delay in quota reforms to erode IMF's credibility: Jaitley

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has expressed disappointment over the slow pace of IMF quota reforms and said any further delay would erode the legitimacy and credibility of the multi-lateral organisation.

The minister also underlined the need for enhanced surveillance by the IMF to address the rising vulnerabilities in the global monetary and financial systems.

"The emerging risks to the global economy call for enhanced surveillance by the IMF. The IMF needs to be sufficiently resourced to be able to fully discharge this responsibility. It also needs to function as a quota-based institution," he said at the meeting of the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC).

Given that there is a broad agreement on maintaining the current overall lending capacity of the Fund and that the IMF's existing resource pool is excessively tilted towards borrowed resources, there is a "dire need" for increasing quotas, he added.

"We are disappointed that the deadline for completing the 15th GRQ (General Review of Quotas) has been pushed back to no later than the 2019 annual meetings," Jaitley added.

"Any further delay in the 15th GRQ will erode Fund's legitimacy and credibility, and will be against the spirit of the Articles of Agreement. I do hope that the deadlines now set will be honoured and adhered to," he said.

India has been pressing for IMF quota reforms as it would give more say to developing nations in the activities of the multi-lateral organisation. Also the quota reform would reflect the changed economic realities, specially with regard to the increasing prowess of the developing nations.

Commenting on increasing protectionism and its adverse implications, the finance minister called upon the IMF to lend strong and unambiguous voice in support of free trade and raise awareness about the benefits of rule based open multilateral trading frameworks.
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