President Obama and the 21 leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic cooperation (APEC) forum will launch this weekend a new “APEC Travel Facilitation Initiative” to make travel across the Asia-Pacific region easier, faster, and more secure. In a first step, President Obama today in Honolulu signed legislation to allow issuance of the APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC) to eligible U.S. travelers. The President also announced that the United States is making important progress on bilateral Trusted Traveler cooperation arrangements with the Republic of Korea and Singapore. These programs will provide time-saving benefits for Americans traveling to APEC economies and highlight the Administration's commitment to deepening engagement with the Asia-Pacific region.
APEC Business Travel Card
Today in Honolulu, President Obama signed the APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC) Act, a bill that will expedite travel in the Asia-Pacific region for qualified American travelers. Under the bill, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is authorized to issue the ABTC to U.S. citizens as part of its Global Entry program. Card holders will receive expedited scheduling of visa interviews and access to fast-track immigration lanes at airports in APEC's 21 economies.
Trusted Traveler Partnerships
The United States will soon implement a Trusted Traveler arrangement with the Republic of Korea and is working to establish a similar partnership with Singapore in the near future. These arrangements will allow eligible, pre-screened citizens to clear immigration and customs expeditiously using automated kiosks when traveling between the United States and these countries. One of the long-term goals of the APEC Travel Facilitation Initiative is to create a regional network of trusted traveler programs.
APEC Travel Facilitation Initiative
The APEC Travel Facilitation Initiative is a multi-year action plan for expediting the flow of increasing numbers of passengers in the APEC region. The Initiative focuses on promoting improvements in passenger security screening on departure, as well as immigration and customs processing on arrival; fostering regional adoption of best practices; and pursuing “next generation” approaches to make the travel process faster, easier, and more secure for travelers.
With traveler volume numbers expected to increase in the coming decades, these efforts by APEC and the United States reflect the economic importance of travel to and within the Asia Pacific region, the world’s biggest air passenger market. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), airlines carried 647 million travelers across the region in 2009, with this number expected to increase to one billion by 2014. The number of air travelers globally is also projected to grow from 2.4 billion in 2010 to 16 billion by 2050, with much of this growth expected to occur in the Asia-Pacific region.