Pranab hits out at protectionist tendency of US

Pranab hits out at protectionist tendency of US
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First Published: Fri, Feb 20 2009. 02 21 PM IST
Updated: Fri, Feb 20 2009. 02 21 PM IST
New Delhi: India on Friday opposed protectionist measures built into the US government’s multi-billion corporate bailout package, saying these were “worrying signs” from the world’s biggest economy.
“We are already witnessing worrying signs of protectionism in the world’s biggest economy. We need to argue against this trend at the international fora,” External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said inaugurating the 42nd Indian Labour Conference.
He was apparently referring to the Washington’s bar on firms receiving bailout money from hiring foreign workers if they are to replace Americans at work.
Industry estimates suggest nearly 100,000 Indians were among the 163,000 that had applied for non-immigrant skilled workers visa (H-1B) in FY’09. The US has apped the number of H-1B visas at 65,000 a year.
The bailout-condition could affect Indian skilled workers.
In the wake of the global financial meltdown, Mukherjee said, “We will need to press for trade and aid flows to developing countries and look at regional cooperation to strengthen defences against such crises”.
Mukherjee said there was a need to invest more in infrastructure, provide adequate credit support to the poorer sections of the society and create better facilities for upgrading skills and re-skilling of the workforce.
“Our government is making all efforts to ensure flow of credit to consumption, trade and investment, and stimulating additional demand through public and private expenditure and investment,” Mukherjee said.
He said the government’s response to the crisis has been swift and recent developments show that the benefits were trickling down.
“Global crisis requires a global response and India is playing its own role in fashioning it,” he said.
Stressing that given the economic crisis, jobs need to be protected, Mukherjee urged for it to be done even at the cost of “some reduction in compensation” at various levels.
As for mitigating large scale labour migrations, he said, “strengthening of local demand, empowerment and ownership of the growth process can be ensured only through directed investment aimed at the socially disadvantaged sections of our society.”
Pranab vouched for a “humane globalisation” as the answer to the crisis and its attendant danger of social discord or even the heightened risk of terrorism.
“We have taken several measures comprising extending social protection and unemployment benefits, facilitating additional training and targeted safety nets.”
He said that the government is working in the direction of supporting “productive, profitable and sustainable enterprises together with a strong social economy and a viable public sector so as to maximise employment.”
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First Published: Fri, Feb 20 2009. 02 21 PM IST