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Senate committee approves APEC Business Travel Card Act


Washington, D.C. – The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs unanimously approved legislation to help facilitate business travel and trade with the Asia-Pacific region by removing burdens on international travel, Senators Daniel K. Akaka and Daniel K. Inouye announced.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Travel Card Act (S. 1487) would allow business leaders from the United States and senior government officials who are actively engaged in APEC business to receive APEC Business Travel Cards (ABTCs) that would help expedite their international travel within the 21 APEC member economies.

“Mahalo to my colleagues on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs for joining me to advance this measure that will promote fast and efficient travel for business and governmental leaders from Hawaii and across the U.S. working to expand trade to Asia-Pacific destinations,” said Senator Akaka. “In order to demonstrate our nation’s partnership with these regional economies, I urge the full Senate and the House to act promptly and pass this measure before the historic APEC summit meetings in Honolulu next month.”

“I would like to thank the committee for supporting this bill that helps American officials and business leaders operating in APEC economies to travel to and from their destinations in expedited fashion,” said Senator Inouye. “The APEC meetings in Honolulu are less than a month away and I urge the full Senate to support this measure that will serve as one more tool for job creation and the expansion of international trade.”

The APEC Business Travel Card Act was introduced on August 3rd by U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell, Daniel K. Akaka, and Daniel K. Inouye. The legislation is supported by the National Center for APEC, National Foreign Trade Council, US-ASEAN Business Council, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Asia-Pacific Council of American Chambers of Commerce, and the U.S. Council for International Business.

APEC member economies account for 41 percent of the world’s population, 54 percent of world Gross Domestic Product and approximately 44 percent of global trade, according to the United States Trade Representative (USTR). Last year, U.S. exports to APEC countries accounted for almost 60 percent of U.S. exports. Nine of the top 15 U.S. export markets for goods are APEC member economies. U.S. goods and services traded with APEC economies totaled $1.9 trillion in 2009.

The ABTC program, which began in 1997, is recognized by all 21 APEC members. Eighteen of the 21 APEC economies are full members of the ABTC program, while the U.S., Canada, and Russia participate as “transitional members.” Travel cards are valid for three years and are issued by individual economies for use by their own citizens. As a transitional member of the program, the U.S. currently recognizes foreign-issued ABTCs but does not issue them to U.S. passport holders. The APEC Business Travel Card Act would allow U.S. passport holders to participate in the program and enjoy the same expedited travel benefits that ABTC travelers in the 18 other participating countries currently enjoy.

Foreign-issued ABTC travelers must still obtain U.S. visas as required by United States law; however, they have access to expedited visa interview scheduling at U.S. embassies and consulates, and expedited immigration processing through airline crew and diplomat immigration lanes upon arrival in the United States. Under current law, U.S. passport holders are not yet eligible to apply for the ABTC program and therefore they do not enjoy these same benefits in other Asia-Pacific countries.

Since the ABTC program began in 1997, applications received by participating countries have grown each year by more than 100 percent. As of April 2011, nearly 90,000 foreign citizens are holders of ABTCs. The National Center of APEC has estimated that the demand for the cards in the United States would be around 10,500-15,000 during the first three years depending on the eligibility criteria established.

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