The government on 5th June approved the broad strategy for World Trade Organisation services negotiation under which India would be willing to open up several services including health, financial, computer-related, architecture, tourism and book keeping.
The strategy approved by the Cabinet Committee on WTO, headed by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, made it clear that India was not willing to negotiate opening up of four services -- distributive (retail and wholesale business), legal, posts and courier, and audio-visuals like films.
Official sources told PTI that there are a few other services like energy, education, environment, recreation, culture and sports, which could be considered for opening up only after undertaking more studies on these sectors.
The government was trying to play a pro-active role in the services negotiations and was willing to open up many of the sectors that included maritime services and urban land services.
Under the service negotiations, India has already made its offer to 62 countries, of which 25 have responded including the United States and European Union, the sources said.
The strategy was approved by the Cabinet Committee on WTO, which enables the commerce ministry to make the offer in services in consultation with the concerned ministries.
The sources also said the negotiations could be bilateral, multilateral and pluralistic and the government would adopt a strategy that would maximise gains to the country while protecting national interest as in any other trade.
The General Agreement on Trade in Services provides for categorisation into four modes.
The Mode 1 negotiations pertain to business process outsourcing, which are generally known as cross-border services like doctors providing consultation to a patient in the US sitting in India through e-mail. Under Mode 1 negotiations, India wanted it to be totally liberalised so that there were no restrictions for carrying out the outsourcing services.
Under Mode 4 negotiations, which provides for movement of natural persons, India has been demanding that the bound rate for granting visas for professionals should be substantially increased.
To cite an example, under Mode 4, the US has bound itself to give up to 65,000 H1B visas for professionals from outside the country seeking employment. But Washington on its own has increased that number to 190,000 professionals in the face of growing demand in that country.
However, it still maintains the bound rate at 65,000 giving it a leverage to lower the number of such visas from 190,000.
India is pressing for the bound rate to be raised substantially from 65,000 so that movement of professionals becomes easier.
The Mode 3 is related to the flow of foreign direct investment as it pertains to the commercial presence of organisations in various countries.
The issue of Mode 3 was crucial for telecom and financial services where there is a sizeable flow of FDI.