WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 3, 2017) — U.S. Senators’ Mazie Hirono (D-HI)and Steve Daines (R-Mont.) on Friday introduced the bipartisan APEC Business Travel Card Reauthorization Act to make permanent the APEC Business Travel Card Program, which grants U.S. citizens access to fast-track processing lanes at airports across the Asia-Pacific.
Without reauthorization, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) cannot issue cards to U.S. citizens after September 30, 2018. Over 200 Hawaii residents are active holders of the APEC Business Travel Card which saves 43 minutes on average in airport wait times.
“The APEC Business Travel Card has helped hundreds of Hawaii residents travel and conduct business with ease across a region critical to our local economy and jobs,” Hirono said. “We cannot allow this successful program to expire, which is why I am proud to introduce this bill to provide business travelers certainty and further enhance our country’s engagement with the nations of the Asia-Pacific.”
“With 95 percent of the world’s consumers outside of the United States, it’s critical that we continue to make it more efficient for American businesses to reach overseas markets,” Daines said.
“This is a superb, business-friendly initiative by Senator Hirono to help business travel in Asia-Pacific to be more productive,” said George D. Szigeti, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority. “With Hawaii’s role expanding in the Pacific Rim as a center for tourism and commerce, making the APEC Business Travel Cards a permanent travel benefit will support economic growth throughout the region.”
“The Chamber of Commerce Hawaii supports legislation introduced by Senator Mazie Hirono to permanently authorize the APEC Business Travel Card,” said Sherry Menor-McNamara, president and CEO. “As the voice of business in Hawaii and with our state’s strategic proximity to the Asia-Pacific region, the Chamber supports efforts to safely expedite international business travel between Hawaii and Asian markets. Providing business travelers with streamlined processing through designated lanes at the airports and entry points of participating economies, will further facilitate trade and business transactions between businesses in Hawaii and international customers, which positively impacts our economy, expansion efforts and job creation.”
“The 700-plus members of the Hawai‘i Lodging & Tourism Association , the state’s largest private tourism organization , are strongly in favor of the APEC Business Travel Cards Reauthorization Act being sponsored by Senator Hirono, as we are of any measures that will bolster and streamline travel to the United States,” said HLTA President and CEO Mufi Hannemann. “We continue to make great strides in attracting business travelers, as APEC and last year’s World Conservation Congress demonstrate, and this proposed legislation can only enhance Hawai‘i’s efforts in this highly competitive market.”
The APEC Business Travel Card Reauthorization Act is also supported by 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, Global Business Travel Association, American Hotel and Lodging Association, U.S.-China Business Council, U.S.-ASEAN Business Council, American Chamber of Commerce in Japan, American Chamber of Commerce in the People’s Republic of China and the National Center for APEC.
2017 marks the 20th anniversary of the creation of the business travel card initiative by the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), a multilateral forum that includes the U.S., Japan, China and 18 other Pacific Rim economies. At the 2011 APEC summit in Honolulu, President Obama signed the original bill authorizing the U.S. Government to issue APEC Business Travel Cards (ABTC) to U.S. citizens. Senator Hirono was a cosponsor of the bill as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. In November 2016, Senator Hirono urged President Obama to extend the card’s validity from three to five years consistent with other APEC nations. On December 13, 2016, CBP began issuing 5-year ABTCs.
Click here to read the legislation.