Washington, DC – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed S. 504, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Travel Cards Act of 2017, which is identical to bipartisan legislation introduced in the House this year by Reps. Dave Reichert (R-WA), chairman of the Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee, Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Dan Donovan (R-NY), and Rick Larsen (D-WA). The legislation permanently reauthorizes the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Travel Card (ABTC) program, which eases travel for those conducting business in the APEC region. APEC, a forum of 21 Pacific Rim countries including the U.S., created the ABTC program in 1997, and the U.S. started issuing cards to eligible Americans in 2014 after Congress passed the APEC Business Travel Cards Act in 2011.
Nearly 30,000 U.S. citizens currently hold cards through the ABTC program, including more than 1,000 in Washington State.
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‘The future lies in the Asia-Pacific region,’ said Rep. Reichert. ‘Government officials and our business men and women must be able to engage with the world’s largest growing consumer-base living in Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation member countries. The ABTC program is used by 1,000 Washington residents alone and has proven successful in facilitating travel and making it easier for Americans to do business in this critical region. I am proud to have worked on this bipartisan, bicameral legislation and pleased my colleagues in the House voted to send it to the President’s desk.’
Background on the APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC) program:
The ABTC program allows business travelers and government officials with business in APEC countries to access fast-track processing lanes at APEC airports, which saves an estimated 43 minutes per trip, according to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CPB). The program runs entirely on user fees and costs nothing to taxpayers. Applicants must pay a $70 fee, must be U.S. citizens, and must pre-enroll in a U.S. trusted traveler program like Global Entry. Eligible applicants must be a ‘verified business person’ engaged in APEC business – i.e., engaged in the trade of goods, provision of services, or conduct of investment activities in the APEC region – or a U.S. government official engaged in government activities in the APEC region. Under the APEC Business Travel Cards Act, the authority to issue these travel cards to Americans is set to expire on September 30, 2018 – meaning that no new cards can be issued after that date, and all cards will expire by 2021, after which Americans will no longer be able to travel throughout the region as easily as business travelers from other APEC countries. The legislation passed in the House today permanently extends that authority, while maintaining the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) authority to revoke or suspend an individual’s card for security reasons at any time. This legislation was introduced by in the Senate by Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Steve Daines (R-MT).
Other organizations supporting the effort to reauthorize the ABTC program include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Asia Pacific Council of American Chambers of Commerce, U.S. Council for International Business, National Foreign Trade Council, U.S. Travel Association, American Hotel and Lodging Association, Global Business Travel Association, U.S.-China Business Council, U.S.-ASEAN Business Council, National Center for APEC, American Chamber of Commerce in Japan, American Chamber of Commerce in the People’s Republic of China, Hawaii Tourism Authority, Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, and the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association.
The full text of the legislation is available here.