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The US-India Business Council (USIBC) may become part of talks on totalisation that is a bone of contention between India and its largest export partner, the US, newly elected USIBC President Nisha Desai Biswal has said. Biswal, who on Tuesday took charge of the organisation that has dominated business dialogue between the two countries for decades, said the USIBC was open to providing critical inputs to both governments to sort out the totalisation issue. Totalisation refers to allowing temporary Indian workers in the US to repatriate their social security contributions when they leave the country and has been a source of contention between the two nations. India has pointed out that the US Totalisation and Social Security Act discriminates against Indian workers who end up losing their social security contributions because of a discrepancy in visa and social security regimes. Senior diplomatic sources aware of the developments told Business Standard that the two governments were at loggerheads on the issue. The two sides last month failed to bring out a joint statement after the first US-India Bilateral Trade Policy Forum (TPF) under the new Trump administration. Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu had travelled to Washington to meet US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and others. The sources mentioned above said a concentrated effort by a third party, preferably from the business side, would be welcome by both nations to push forward the talks. India wants early conclusion of the issue, aiming to protect the interests of Indian professionals who contribute around $1 billion (Rs 6,670 crore) each year to US social security, according to a senior commerce ministry official.
Under the proposed pact, professionals of each country will be exempted from paying social security taxes when they work for a short period in the other country.Biswal is in India to discuss trade and investment issues with the government and the private sector. She has met officials from the commerce ministry and the NITI Aayog. She had earlier engaged in bilateral relations between India and the US as assistant secretary for South and Central Asian affairs in the US State Department from 2013 to 2017. She said Indian companies had created more than 100,000 jobs in the US with significant presence in renewable energy and information technology among other sectors. "Indian investments in the US, around $15 billion, are expected to grow in the infrastructure space, apart from manufacturing," Biswal said. India's infotech industry, which counts the US as its biggest market, has faced sustained fire by the Trump administration over offshoring jobs rather than hiring American workers. Afterwards, India pointed out that significant downstream employment was generated by Indian companies in the US. On the other hand, American companies are looking to invest in life sciences, tourism and renewable energy in India, shifting their attention beyond Delhi and Mumbai to the hinterland. Biswal's predecessor, Khush Choksy, had said that in areas such as land acquisition and ease of doing business India had opportunity for improvement.