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Obama softens his tone on offshoring

November 10, 2010 06:00 AM ET

If Congress acts to increase the cap on H-1B visas, then Obama is likely to support it. Obama supported an H-1B cap increase of up to 180,000 from 85,000 as a senator in 2007. The Obama administration has said little about the visa generally, except in legal papers where it highlighted the visa's importance to U.S. industry and said that lack of access to the visas creates a "competitive disadvantage" for U.S. companies.

What the Obama administration did in India is relax some export controls, which should make it easier for U.S. firms to sell defense- and security-related products to the Indian market, said Sanjay Mullick, an attorney who specializes in export controls and economic sanctions at the law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP. He said the change in export controls is significant.

"We're sitting here with 10% unemployment and the best technology in the world," Mullick said. "When we have export control restrictions that are as outdated as they were, what we're doing is basically compromising the ability of U.S. firms to play in this fantastic opportunity."

The agreement on export controls is "helpful in sending a message that the relationship is on a new level now, a level of presumption of trust," Mullick added.

Ron Hira, an associate professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology, said Obama accomplished what he set out to do in India, which was to "appease business leaders both in the U.S. and in India. "

"This shouldn't have taken anyone by surprise, since Obama and his economic team has never taken offshoring seriously," Hira said. "He's been in office two years and took no actions on offshoring, in spite of a few speeches."

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at Twitter @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed Thibodeau RSS. His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

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