India's new Trade and Commerce Minister Anand Sharma said Monday rich countries must grant Indian professionals more visas as he pressed for a resumption of stalled global trade talks.

Trade and Commerce Minister Anand Sharma demands visas for professionals
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Sharma, who is in Britain for talks with his opposite number Peter Mandelson, told a gathering of prominent British and Indian businessmen the logjam in the so-called Doha Development Round of trade talks "must be broken".

But he accused rich countries of erecting new trade barriers in response to the global recession.

"I am talking about new subsidies being introduced which were given up by countries, trade distorting measures being taken, professionals being refused visas, measures being introduced which are incompatible with the WTO," Sharma told a meeting of the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII).

"Protectionism is also when you do not have Indian doctors coming in freely, Indian nurses coming in freely, Indian IT professionals moving," he said, voicing a long-standing Indian demand for greater flexibility in allowing the temporary movement of skilled professionals.

Sharma, who was in the US for talks last week, said India had suggested a resumption of the trade talks based on the two existing draft documents on agriculture and manufacturing.

"I am happy to say...that has found positive endorsement," he said.

He said trade diplomats in Geneva had already begun initial discussions for a possible resumption of talks and that he was keen to see a "roadmap" and "some positive results" by the time the US plays host to a Group of 20 (G20) summit in Pittsburgh in September.

"There is much progress that has been made. The two draft reports should be used as the base documents for the resumption of negotiations. I also referred to countries negotiating to find a middle ground. It's not possible to get absolutely perfect solutions. What is definitely possible and achievable is a fair, honourable and equitable solution."

"Until the formal sector-specific discussions resume, our Ambassadors have already been advised in Geneva and we are talking. Beyond that I would not like to get into crystal gazing. I remain an optimist - that's all," he added.

Also present at the meeting were CII mentor Tarun Das, Lord Adair Turner, chairman of Britain's Financial Services Authority, CII president Venu Srinivasan and Indian High Commissioner Shiv Shankar Mukherjee and Richard Lambert, director general of the Confederation of British Industry.

Also present were Triveni Engineering and Industries chairman Dhruv M. Sawhney, HSBC country head for India Naina Lal Kidwai, Fortis group chairman Malvinder Mohan Singh, and TCS executive director Phiroz Vandrevala.