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US: Border security bill not WTO compliant

By Lalit K Jha in Washington
August 17, 2010 10:11 IST

The US is reviewing the suggestion that the border security bill, that significantly increases visa fees of H1-B and L1 categories, was not WTO compliant, days after President Barack Obama signed it into law.

"Yes, we are reviewing a suggestion that this bill (border security bill) is not WTO-compliant. I not aware that we've reached any final judgement, but we're not sure that necessarily any WTO issues are triggered," State Department spokesman P J Crowley said.

The US is in talks with Indian officials about the bill, which has triggered a wave of protest by Indian multinational companies who have not only termed it as discriminatory, but also said this would undermine the growing US-India relationship.

The Obama Administration officials, however, believe that the ties are strong and robust and there is nothing in the bill that would have any adverse impact on the ties between the two countries.

The border security bill signed by Obama into laws last week raises some $600 million to tighten the security along the US-Mexico border by deploying some 1,500 national guards, and aerial drones among others.

Most of the money for this would be raised about $550 million by increasing the fee for certain categories of H-1B and L1 visas over the next five years.

Business in both India and the US say that legislation was targeted at Indian companies which are being denied by the authors of the bill.

The Indian Government too has expressed its concern over certain provisions of the bill. Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, last week wrote a letter to the US Trade Representatives Ron Kirk, expressing his concerns about certain provisions of the border security bill that raises visa fee for Indian companies.

"Congress has passed the law and the President has signed it. Now we're trying to understand, you know, its potential implications. We will work closely with India as we implement it," Crowley said in response to a question.

"As we work to administer this law, which Congress passed and the President signed, we will try to understand fully the potential impact that it has on individual companies in India," he said.

Lalit K Jha in Washington
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