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India offers to waive off visa fees to LDCs at WTO meet

PTI: India has made substantial offers like waiving off visa fees, granting market access and technical assistance to service providers from poor nations, showing its resolve to support the Least Developing Countries.
The offers were made at a high-level WTO meeting here convened to indicate proposals from developed and developing countries for preferential treatment to service providers from the Least Developing Countries (LDCs).

Among major concessions and offers, India proposed to waive off visa fees for applicants applying for Indian business or employment from LDCs.

High visa fees is one of the biggest impediments for service providers from the poorer nations.

"Onerous application fees for visas, licenses and residence and work permits for many LDCs are tantamount to one month's salary for the families. Also, a severe loss if the visa is not granted and the fees are not returned," said Uganda's Minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives Amelia Anne Kyambadde.

"Visa waiver is a really good thing if India does it in practice," said LDC coordinator and Ugandan Ambassador Christopher Onyanga Aparr.

Also, the Indian offers made include market access, capacity building and technical assistance to service providers from poor nations. The offer is specific to the requests made by LDCs in July 2014.

The sectors for preferential treatment in market access, under General Agreement and Trade in Services plus new mode 4 commitments -- contractual service suppliers and independent professionals -- are engineering services and management consulting services (excluding services in legal consultancy).

In addition, computer and related services, integrated engineering services, hotel and lodging services, travel agency and tour operator services and project management services other than construction are part of GATS.

An exclusive quota of 250 is for tourist guides from the LDCs. Some of the 15 sub-sectors with which India will engage with LDCs were not included in earlier GATS commitments.

Under the technical assistance support, India will earmark at least 25 per cent of all technical assistance offered by Ministry of External Affairs exclusively for LDC members, among other proposals.

India will also design courses for about 1,000 LDC professionals every year, which will be conducted in India or any LDC country, in areas such as management consulting, technical consulting, project management etc.

As part of its commitment to promote the tourism sector, the Indian Government will have one LDC partner country every year for the India International Trade Fair (IITF) -- the largest consumer goods fair in the Indian sub-continent.

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