USIBC and the Coalition for Jobs and Growth worked with five former U.S. Ambassadors to India to reach Congress about American jobs and competitiveness. The following letter is urging the removal of visa provisions which are not in U.S. economic interests and also stand to complicate relations with India, a premier strategic partner to the United States.
September 11, 2013
Speaker John A. Boehner, U.S. House of Representatives
Majority Leader Harry Reid, U.S. Senate
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, U.S. Senate
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House of Representatives
Dear Speaker Boehner, Leader Reid, Leader McConnell, and Leader Pelosi:
Please find enclosed a letter prepared by five former U.S. Ambassadors to India during the transformative period that heralded India’s economic opening and liberalization. The Ambassadors have written to you to express their support for a “clean” immigration reform bill that does not include any discriminatory provisions that may harm U.S. or Indian interests, and which supports the growth of the U.S.-India knowledge economy.
American competitiveness and vitality depend heavily on robust U.S.-India commercial ties. We ask that any comprehensive immigration reform legislation approved by Congress appreciates the mutual benefit of deepening the U.S.-India partnership, which is vitally important to our two countries and the global economy.
Sincerely,
Ron Somers, President
U.S.-India Business Council
Dear Messrs. Speaker Boehner, Majority Leader Reid, Minority Leader McConnell, and Madame Minority Leader Pelosi,
We are writing to you today as former Ambassadors to India and also as ongoing supporters of U.S. trade and foreign policies which further ties between the United States and India. While we believe that the U.S. Congressional efforts to further Comprehensive Immigration Reform can be of great benefit, we are concerned that the high-skilled visa provisions in legislation currently contemplated by the Senate are not in US economic interests and they complicate our relations with India.
For all the right reasons, the United States has made India one of our premier strategic partners. We look to, and rely on, India’s support as we draw-down our forces in Afghanistan, face the complexities of our relationships with China and Pakistan, foster a peaceful transition to democracy in Myanmar, and continue our fight against terrorist forces operating in South Asia.
The economic relationship between the U.S. and India has become significant to both countries. Two-way trade in goods and services has reached over $100 billion a year, compared to only $25 billion in 2006. Similarly, investment by American companies in India and Indian corporations in the United States now exceeds $50 billion. At the heart of opportunities for U.S. exports to, and investments in, India is India’s middle-class – 300 million-plus individuals (larger than the entire U.S. population) with a purchasing power greater than $30,000 per year. In addition, India will soon become the top purchaser of defense equipment and supplies in the world. In just the last 5 years, U.S.-India defense trade has surpassed $10 billion.
Moreover, Indian investment into the U.S. economy is now in excess of $11 billion. Governors from most U.S. states have identified Indian companies as major potential investors. A key aspect of our trade with India has been the ability of U.S. companies to draw upon Indian information technology (IT) professionals. Notably, U.S. and India have partnered to form a “knowledge economy” – not outsourcing, rather a partnership between U.S. and Indian high-skilled personnel to drive innovation and provide U.S. companies with an advantage over global competitors. This activity has been supported by the creation of thousands of American jobs and partnerships with U.S. educational institutions who produce domestic IT graduates. The drivers for making more IT professionals available to meet American needs and drive growth have been U.S. and global Indian companies who bring temporary IT personnel to U.S. businesses when domestic supply of trained professionals is not sufficient.
The Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation that has passed the U.S. Senate unfortunately differentiates between U.S. providers of IT and Indian IT companies which provide the same services to American businesses using virtually the same labor pool sourced from India. In particular, the bill will block Indian IT companies (as well as significant U.S. IT service providers) from providing these essential services – and free-market competition – to our leading U.S.-based multinational companies. Equally important, such legislation sends a protectionist signal to our Indian counterparts – a signal normally reserved for nations with whom we have non-productive relations. India does not fit this
category.
Many U.S. companies entering the Indian market have found tremendous success. Others have struggled with Indian policies related to tariffs, intellectual property, tax treatment and local manufacturing requirements as well as needless interference by state and local officials.
Our ongoing bilateral dialogue with India and not punitive legislation has in the past helped resolve differences. Departing from this approach will not solve these problems; it risks provoking “tit for tat” retaliation, which denigrates this important relationship.
We would appreciate your bringing our concerns to the attention of those who are responsible for the preparation of final comprehensive immigration legislation and ask that they revise those sections and remove those features of any Bill that would limit market entry of IT professionals who work for so-called Visa-dependent IT companies. These provisions, currently in the Senate Bill and any which may be included in the counterpart pending House Bill, are virtually punitive and cry out for redress and excision.
Thank you for your urgent attention to this very important matter affecting U.S.-India commerce and economic and geopolitical relations between the world’s largest free-market democracies.
Sincerely,
Thomas R. Pickering, former Ambassador to India
Frank G. Wisner, former Ambassador to India
Richard Celeste, former Ambassador to India
David C. Mulford, former Ambassador to India
Robert Blackwill, former Ambassador to India

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