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Indian professionals wanting to pursue careers abroad will get qualitatively improved offers by May '05 from the US and other developed countries. All thanks to the just-concluded framework agreement for post-'05 WTO talks .

On the ground, this could mean professionals from the developing world will get to take advantage of job opportunities in a wider range of services. It also implies that rules pertaining to transnational movements will be relaxed. Further, visa regimes could become less discretionary and more norm-oriented.

The agreement binds Washington and Brussels to make offers that are truly gainful to professionals from developing countries, besides liberalising the visa regime . A provision introduced in the agreement to this effect is expected to give a big boost to India's export of professional services.

While India has an entrenched presence in IT services , it now hopes to make major inroads into the highly-remunerative non-IT service markets in the West. It is reckoned that among the 15 non-IT services, India apparently has huge potential in healthcare, education and R&D components like clinical trials.

In return for the proposed improved offers by the West, India may need to relax controls on foreign investment in sensitive sectors like telecom and insurance, though this is not enshrined in the agreement, sources said. The framework agreement reached in Geneva lays a special emphasis on Mode-4 of services concerning transnational movements.

As per the agreement, "With a view to providing effective market access to all members and in order to ensure a substantive outcome, members shall strive to ensure a high quality of offers, particularly in sectors and modes of supply of export interest to developing countries, with special attention to be given to least-developed countries."

The global size of the healthcare services sector is estimated at $17 trillion. It cuts across all four Modes of trade, including diagnosis/clinical consultations and tele-medicine (Mode 1); health tourism, and education & training (Mode 2); establishment of hospitals/diagnostic centres/clinics etc (Mode 3) and movement of doctors and nurses, consultants, health management personnel (Mode 4).

The new provision is expected to give a fillip to Mode 4, which is more important for India, while not constricting the scope of the other modes. The provision mandates WTO members to achieve progressively higher levels of liberalisation with no "a priori exclusion" of any service sector or mode of supply and to give special attention to sectors and modes of supply of export interest to developing countries. Accordingly, a revised round of offers are to be made by May '05.

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