Services trade deal could open U.S. to more foreign workers

WASHINGTON Sat Feb 2, 2013 7:12am IST

Related Topics

Stocks

   

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will face pressure to open its borders to more foreign workers in the service industry in talks slated to start later this year, a difficult issue for U.S. trade negotiators over the past decade, business officials said on Friday.

"It's inevitable that that's going to be on the table," said Jake Colvin, vice president at the National Foreign Trade Council, which represents major U.S. exporters such as Boeing Co (BA.N), Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) and Caterpillar Inc (CAT.N).

Peter Allgeier, president of Coalition of Service Industries, whose members include Citigroup Inc (C.N), FedEx (FDX.N) and Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N), agreed it would be a major demand on the United States in the talks, which are expected to start in coming months.

Professionals from around the world would like to work in the United States temporarily, Allgeier said.

The proposed talks covering service sectors such as telecommunications, finance and express delivery are expected to include the United States, Japan, the European Union and a mix of 18 other developed and developing countries.

The aim is to establish the rules for international services trade in the 21st century, including in new areas such as the Internet where countries are increasingly imposing barriers on cross-border data flows, Allgeier said.

Although big emerging countries such as China, India and Brazil are not currently part of the proposed talks, participants hope they will eventually join.

The United States is already is the world's largest services exporters and could benefit significantly from the pact.

Calls for the United States to provide more visas for skilled workers has been a sensitive issue in the past.

Many U.S. lawmakers objected in 2003 when the administration of former President George W. Bush agreed in free trade pacts with Singapore and Chile to provide additional H-1B1 visas for their business professionals to work in the United States.

That led to a letter by then-U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick promising the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee not to include such provisions in future trade pacts.

The issue also hung over the unsuccessful Doha round of world trade talks. India became convinced the United States would not provide more visas and resisted demands to open its manufacturing and agriculture markets, Allgeier said.

However, the Obama administrations and senior lawmakers are promising action this year on a comprehensive immigration reform bill, which could include more visas for high-skilled workers.

That potentially could free the United States' hands to deal with visa demands in talks on the services pact.

The United States also will likely face pressure in the negotiations to lower barriers in sectors such as shipping, telecommunications and air travel, Allgeier said.

(Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Canada Shooting

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Fighting Islamic State

Fighting Islamic State

Iraqi Kurds approve sending fighters to aid Syrian town.  Full Article 

Ebola Outbreak

Ebola Outbreak

Official WHO Ebola toll near 5,000 with true number nearer 15,000.  Full Article 

Double Murder

Double Murder

Thailand tourist murder suspects retract confessions.  Full Article 

Abducted Girls

Abducted Girls

Nigeria talks with Boko Haram but no sign of girls' release.  Full Article 

Bodies In Locker

Bodies In Locker

Woman charged after 6 infant bodies found in Canadian locker.  Full Article 

Tunisia Polls

Tunisia Polls

Tunisia election tests transition from autocracy to democracy.  Full Article 

Pope's Agenda

Pope's Agenda

Pope Francis plays long game to reform Catholic Church.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage