Business travel card program to be expanded
China and other APEC member economies are planning to extend the period of validity of the APEC Business Travel Card from three to five years and widen availability of the card to other professions.
Zhang Shaogang, directorgeneral of the department of international trade and economic affairs at the Ministry of Commerce, said theChinese government is working closely with the foreign affairs and border control authorities of other APEC members to expand the card’s ability to increase connectivity within the region.
“The governments of APEC economies are considering allowing scholars, students and media professionals to apply for the ABTC in a bid to further improve business, technology and media exchanges among multinational corporations, press agencies, influential academic institutions and universities within the region,” said Zhang.
A total of 150,000 ABTCs have been issued to entrepreneurs and company employees since the program was launched in 1997, including 30,000 from China.
Very much in line with the organization’s goals of free and open regional trade and investment, the card program allows business travelers precleared, facilitated short-term entry to participating member economies, removing the need for individuals to apply for visas or entry permits. Multiple entries are allowed with the card’s three-year valid period.
Zhang said card holders benefit from faster immigration processing on arrival at major airports in participating economies, via special APEC, fast-track entry and exit lanes.
There are 19 APEC member economies fully participating in the program, including Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, China, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico and NewZealand.
Canada and the United States are also transitional members. The former is working toward issuing cards to its own citizens while in the latter, legislation has been passed authorizing the issuance of ABTCs to eligible persons, with the US Customs and Border Protection already in the process of starting card issuance.
Zhao Zhongxiu, a trade professor at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, said the ABTC program has not only reduced transaction costs for cardholders, but also for business people and governments.
“The card helps enhance border integrity and security in participating country’s border agencies as it increases the number of low-risk travelers coming through. Each applicant is checked against ‘watch lists’ of other participating economies,” said Zhao.