‘The CRS request is yet to get a positive response from many nations’



Ujal Singh Bhatia is India’s Ambassador and
Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organization (WTO). At a time when
negotiations on services are being held at the WTO, Juhi Bhambal spoke to His
Excellency in Geneva, on India’s stance on the negotiation of IT
services-related issues

India has a special focus on trade in IT services at the WTO.
What are some of the specific clauses that we are negotiating for?
India has a focus not only on trade in IT services, but also on market
access in movement of natural persons (Mode 4). With respect to trade in
services, following are some of the important issues that India is negotiating
on several issues of importance.

One, we are trying to get commitments at a higher level of
aggregation in computer-related services (CRS), which include consulting
services related to hardware installation, software implementation, data
processing, database services etc. The higher level of aggregation would ensure
not only wider coverage but also that services arising out of technological
advancement in the future are covered.

Two, IT and ITeS include much more than CRS. To ensure certainty
and predictability in the business environment of these services, India has
requested for binding commitments in sectors where services can be supplied
through cross-border supply. The request in cross-border supply was an effort in
this direction, wherein commitments were requested in around 55 sectors and
sub-sectors.

Last but not the least, India has also made requests to
developed countries in Mode 4 as the co-ordinator of the Mode 4 group. Access is
being sought in the categories of contractual services suppliers and independent
professionals in the CRS sector. We are requesting for removal of economic needs
tests, reasonable duration of stay with the possibility of extension, removal of
absolute wage parity as a pre-condition for entry of foreign service provider
etc. Sixteen developing countries are co-sponsors of this request.

How likely are these negotiations to close in India’s favor?
It is not easy to predict the result of the negotiations at this stage since
this would depend on the overall level of ambition in the Doha Round as well as
the ambition within the services negotiations. Given this caveat, it does appear
that the CRS request has been able to garner a positive response from many
recipient countries.

In Mode 4, there is a reasonable chance of inclusion of the
categories of Contractual Service Suppliers (CSS) and independent professionals
in the commitments of many developed countries and inclusion of CRS sectors in
the list of sectors where commitments may be undertaken. However, the response
of the US remains uncertain.

What are the US and the EU stances on the issue of immigration
of skilled Indian IT workers?
The US continues to rely on H1B visas and the EU relies on the current visa
regime to provide entry to skilled workers. India has been pushing both the US
and EU on taking commitments in categories of service providers such as CSS,
employees of juridical persons and independent professionals, and providing a
separate and more liberal regime for their entry… However, the US has not
agreed to include these categories in its offer. The EU has recognized these
categories, but conditions of entry remain restrictive, and sectoral coverage
limited.

Do you think that the issue of US reluctance to open up its
agriculture sector will affect the outcome of the negotiation?
The Doha round is a single undertaking and hence there are trade offs and
linkages across the various areas of the round. Accordingly, there is a link to
some extent between agriculture, non agricultural market access and services…
India has repeatedly stressed that there can be no trade offs involving its core
concerns in agriculture. IT services, on the other hand, already enjoy a high
degree of openness in both the countries.

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