Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu will co-chair the first Trade Policy Forum (TPF) meeting after the Trump administration took charge which will be held in Washington on October 26.

India is expected to raise issues of higher charges for H-1B visas and need for a totalization agreement during the meeting. Prabhu will meet US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer as well as US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

India will push the US for a totalization pact that will allow Indians working in the US to withdraw their social security contributions when they leave the nation. India argues that the law discriminates against Indians working in the US and they lose a huge sum of money as a result of the issue.

Indian professionals contribute an estimated $1 billion (Rs 6,670 crores) to US social security every year. If both the countries enter into an agreement, Indian nationals, who work in the US for less than 10 years and then return home, will be able to get social security taxes back.

India had demanded setting up a high-level committee to discuss the issue in July 2015. Taking a tough stance on the issue, former Commerce and Industries Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had hinted that the government would consider royalty payments made by the India-based subsidiaries of US companies.

India will raise the issues of tight norms and increase the fee for H-1B and L1 visas, which will adversely affect the interests of Indian companies in the US. According to official data, the majority of H-1B and L1 visas are granted to Indian nationals.

According to a recent report by USCIS on H‐1B petitions filed between FY2007 and FY2017, India tops the list with a total of 2,183,112 petitions filed on behalf of skilled workers from India. Another report that has the details of the H-1B petitions approved by USCIS for the fiscal year 2016 has three Indian IT companies among top five with Infosys leading in second place only next to Cognizant with a total of 12,780 petitions and offering an average salary of $84,344 per annum.

Other issues such as the India-US bilateral investment agreement, Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) etc. are also likely to be discussed in the meeting.

According to an earlier report, the US may raise the need to open up India’s services sector including legal services, multi-brand retail trade, and education. Along with this, they will push India for permission to set up foreign university campuses in India without tying up with Indian universities.

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