House Passes Rice, Donovan, Larsen, Reichert Bill to Reauthorize Expedited Business Travel Program for Pacific Rim Countries
Nearly 30,000 U.S. business travelers, including more than 2,300 New Yorkers and 1,000 Washingtonians, access fast-track lanes at Asia-Pacific airports through ABTC program
WASHINGTON – The U.S. House of Representatives last night 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. Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Dan Donovan (R-NY), Rick Larsen (D-WA) and Dave Reichert (R-WA). The legislation permanently reauthorizes the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Travel Card (ABTC) program, which provides access to fast-track immigration lanes at airports for travelers who conduct verified 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. Under that law, 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 last night 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. S. 504 was introduced in the Senate by Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Steve Daines (R-MT).
Nearly 30,000 U.S. citizens currently hold cards through the ABTC program, including more than 2,300 cardholders in New York and more than 1,000 in Washington. Several organizations in New York have announced their support for the legislation, including NYC & Company, New York City’s official marketing, tourism and partnership organization; the Hotel Association of New York City (HANYC); the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce; and the New York State Hospitality & Tourism Association.
“This is a successful program that operates at no cost to taxpayers and makes New York businesses more competitive in the global economy,” said Representative Kathleen Rice. “Permanently reauthorizing this program is a win for New York businesses and for the American economy. I’m grateful that this bill received such broad bipartisan support and I look forward to seeing it signed into law.”
Congressman Donovan said, “New York is a hub for a variety of industries and businesses that rely on foreign marketplaces. The APEC Business Travel Card helps Americans travel faster and more efficiently throughout the Asia-Pacific region, allowing them to spend more time on business, and less time in airport lines. Last night’s bill passage is a win for U.S. businesses and workers who rely on this program to compete in an increasingly globalized economy. I look forward to seeing it swiftly signed into law.”
“This is great news for Washington state, where ties to the Asia Pacific run deep,” said Rep. Larsen, Co-Chair of the APEC Caucus. “By permanently preserving an important tool for business travelers, this bill will help strengthen economic exchange between the United States and the Asia Pacific region and grow the economy in the Pacific Northwest.”
“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. S. 504 permanently reauthorizes the program while maintaining the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) authority to revoke or suspend an individual’s card for security reasons at any time.
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.