US ready for visa talks at WTO
Geneva, July 27, 2008
The United States said it was ready to talk about giving more temporary access to its labour market for foreign professionals.
This has been a major demand of some developing countries in world trade talks.
’When it comes to temporary entry of business professionals we signalled that we are ready to have that conversation in the context of the Doha round,’ US Trade Representative Susan Schwab said after discussing services with other ministers.
’But obviously it has to be in conjunction with our consultations with Congress,’ she told reporters at the headquarters of the World Trade Organisation.
The issue of granting temporary business visas to skilled foreign workers is controversial with many politicians who consider it an immigration issue that should not be included in trade pacts.
A top Indian trade official said the US offer was more vague than a similar one made by the European Union.
European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson told reporters he was ’moderately encouraged’ by the meeting.
Services have become the biggest driver of the world economy but account for a small amount of world trade.
On Friday, ministers from around 35 key WTO players made unexpected progress on two other core issues of the talks: farming and industrial goods.
Signals that they were willing to make attractive offers on services could help push the farming and industrial talks closer to a deal, trade officials said before Saturday’s meeting.
’The signals that were sent were magnificent,’ said Mexico’s ambassador to the WTO, Fernando de Mateo y Venturini, who chairs the services talks.
’I think in services things are moving fast. This is a very nice indication that things might move as well in the other sectors,’ he said.
Mandelson said he hoped Saturday’s meeting would pave the way for a tabling of offers on services later this year. -Reuters