“At the very latest, the ABTC should be up and running by the time of the 2013 APEC Summit in Indonesia.”
Letter from Steve Okun, APCAC Chairman, Jan 26, 2013
Getting APCAC members the ability to obtain an APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC) from the U.S. government has been one of our key priorities over the past couple of years. Access to business travel cards will significantly enhance business travel, investment, and trade opportunities for U.S. citizens in the rapidly growing economies in the APEC region.
APCAC, and many chambers individually, have been at the forefront in working with the Congress to ensure passage of legislation that would grant the Department of Homeland Security the authority to issue these cards. This support led to the passage of the legislation signed by President Obama at the APEC summit in Honolulu in late 2011.
Unfortunately, despite the Administration’s focus on the region and the passage of the legislation over a year ago, our U.S. citizen members and all American businesspeople are not yet able to fully enjoy reciprocal rights as US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has not yet established a mechanism to issue the ABTC to eligible U.S. citizens doing business in the APEC region
Since passage of the legislation, APCAC has been working with key members of Congress to urge that the implementing regulations be issued. This was a key message during our Washington Door Knock in June 2012, and our Washington representatives, BGR Group, have been engaged on our behalf pushing this issue.
In December 2012, APCAC wrote to Senator Maria Cantwell and other key members of Congress asking for their continued support and action. We requested that, at the very latest, the ABTC should be up and running by the time of the 2013 APEC Summit in Indonesia.
In response to our letter, and with follow-up from BGR Group, Senator Maria Cantwell’s (D, WA) staff, along with staffs from Senators Mazie Hirona and Brian Shatz of Hawaii and Congressman John Larsen from Connecticut, met last week with representatives from US Customs and Border Protection of the Department of Homeland Security. Congressional staff were assured by the CPB that they are planning a full implementation of the ABTC legislation by April or May of this year. It will be part of the Global Entry Trusted Traveler Program with an additional fee of no more than $100. CBP also pledged a one-week turnaround from the time they confirm receipt of an application and the issuance of the new card. Citizens not already part of the Global Entry Trusted Traveler will need to apply for both programs.
APCAC will remain engaged on this issue to ensure our goals are met. We will discuss this at our upcoming Business Summit in Taipei March 21-22, as well as at our Washington Door Knock June 9-12. I urge you and your members to participate in these important APCAC events. I will keep you informed of our efforts, as well as the continued support that individual chambers can provide.
Steven R. Okun
Asia Pacific Council of American Chambers of Commerce (APCAC)