Sen. Hirono Introduces Bill to Make APEC Travel Program Permanent

March 2, 2017, 4:26 PM HST · Updated March 2, 4:28 PM
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Senator Mazie K. Hirono along with Senator Steve Daines (R-Mont.) introduced a bipartisan Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Travel Card Reauthorization Act that would make the APEC Business Travel Card Program permanent.

US Senator Mazie Hirono. Courtesy image.

The program currently grants U.S. citizens access to fast-track processing lanes at airports across the Asia-Pacific.

Without reauthorization, U.S. Customs and Border Protection cannot issue cards to U.S. citizens after Sept. 30, 2018.

Over 200 Hawaiʻi residents are active holders of the APEC Business Travel Card which saves travelers an average of 43 minutes at the airport.

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“The APEC Business Travel Card has helped hundreds of Hawaiʻi residents travel and conduct business with ease across a region critical to our local economy and jobs,” said Sen. Hirono. “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.”

At the 2011 APEC summit in Honolulu, President Obama signed the original bill authorizing the U.S. Government to issue APEC Business Travel Cards to U.S. citizens. Sen. Hirono was a co-sponsor of the bill as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“With 95% 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,” said Sen. Daines.

“This is a superb, business-friendly initiative by Sen. Hirono to help business travel in Asia-Pacific to be more productive,” said George D. Szigeti, President and CEO of the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority. “With Hawaiʻi’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.”

In November 2016, Sen. Hirono urged President Obama to extend the card’s validity from three to five years consistent with other APEC nations. On Dec. 13, 2016, CBP began issuing 5-year ABTCs.

“The Chamber of Commerce Hawaiʻi supports legislation introduced by Sen. Mazie Hirono to permanently authorize the APEC Business Travel Card,” said President and CEO Sherry Menor-McNamara. “As the voice of business in Hawaiʻi and with our state’s strategic proximity to the Asia-Pacific region, the Chamber supports efforts to safely expedite international business travel between Hawaiʻi and Asian markets,” she added.

“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 Hawaiʻi and international customers, which positively impacts our economy, expansion efforts and job creation,” she concluded.

“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 Sen. 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.”

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