U.S. won't stop outsourcing to India: Congressman

Wednesday, 28 May 2003, 07:00 Hrs
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U.S. companies will continue to outsource jobs to India to cut costs despite a move by some American states to curb flight of government contracts, said Congressman Jay Inslee.

NEW DELHI: "People are worried about job security in the U.S. and therefore it is not terribly surprising to find a few people who will oppose outsourcing to other countries," said Inslee, a member of the Democratic Advisory Group on hi-tech issues.

"Some people may support the promulgation of legislation to ban outsourcing but the majority of U.S. industry and policymakers are not in support of creation of new trade barriers," Inslee, who is on a visit to India, told IANS in an interview.

"I don't think it (a ban on outsourcing) is going to happen. We want to keep our doors open. I believe any effort to restrict market access will adversely impact the U.S. economy. The policy of protectionism will not take us anywhere.

"For any economic growth to occur, a country needs to add more value to its products without increasing the cost and outsourcing to India helps U.S. companies do exactly that," added the Congressman.

The Indian government has reacted sharply against four American states -- New Jersey, Maryland, Connecticut and Washington -- reportedly proposing to ban outsourcing of government contracts to companies outside the U.S.

Commerce Minister Arun Jaitley said the move was against the principle of market access and India was placed on "high moral ground" to take it up at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations.

The New Jersey Senate had unanimously cleared a bill on December 16 preventing public enterprises in the state from outsourcing work, specifically to India. State Senator Shirley Turner had proposed the bill.

The bill prohibited public enterprises from shifting their call centres abroad for "cheap labour" with a view to creating more jobs for Americans as the unemployment rate in the U.S. had soared.

The bill was taken up for discussion by the Senate Committee in February this year but couldn't be passed and has now been put on hold. It is now likely to be discussed in the Senate next month.

Close on New Jersey's heels, other states like Washington and Connecticut are also reportedly mulling a ban on outsourcing contracts to India.

Inslee, a representative from the First Congressional district of Washington, however said there was no move in his state to introduce a bill that would make outsourcing difficult.

"Ours is a trade-oriented state and we will not take any step that goes against the principle of market access. Our ability to access other markets will diminish if we ourselves block access to the U.S. market. Trade is a two-way street."

India's vast pool of English-speaking and cheaper manpower, educational system and training programmes have helped transform the country into a global outsourcing superpower over the last few years.

India's software exports grew by 29 percent to $7.5 billion in the year to March 31, 2002, with some 60 percent going to the U.S.

The country's rapidly growing business process outsourcing (BPO) industry has virtually turned it into an electronic housekeeper to the world, taking care of a host of routine activities for multinational giants.

More than a quarter of Fortune 500 companies like General Electric, American Express, British Airways, HSBC and Citibank are shifting their back office operations to India.

Inslee, who is a part of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, said Indian technology companies and professionals in the U.S. have played a very important role in the American economy.

"Indians in the U.S. have created tremendous intellectual capital and helped in the growth of the knowledge economy."
Source: IANS

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