S. 504 permanently reauthorizes the U.S. Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Travel Card Program. The APEC program is a voluntary program to facilitate travel for U.S. citizens engaged in verified business in the APEC region and U.S. government officials engaged in APEC business. This legislation permanently authorizes the framework for a trusted traveler program that allows APEC business travelers pre-cleared, facilitated, short-term entry to participating member economies. Currently, the APEC Business Travel Card Program is set to expire in September 2018.
The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is a forum used by some countries in the Asia-Pacific region to promote economic growth by reducing barriers that hinder trade, travel, and investment among participating countries. Since 1989,Australia; Brunei Darussalam; Canada; Chile; China; Hong Kong, China; Indonesia; Japan; Malaysia; Mexico; New Zealand; Papua New Guinea; Peru; the Philippines; Russia; Singapore; the Republic of Korea; Chinese Taipei; Thailand; the United States; and Vietnam have been cooperating to improve customs procedures and market standards. In 1997, APEC launched the APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC) program to encourage free and open trade among member economies. The ABTC program facilitates safe, fast, and efficient access to APEC markets. The program reduces business travel costs and wait times for ABTC cardholders.
Under the ABTC program, each member nation establishes its own screening requirements, issuing cards mostly to business travelers and senior government officials participating in APEC business meetings and conferences. DHS began issuing U.S. ABTCs in June 2014. As of March 2017, there were approximately 30,300 American citizens participating in the ABTC program.
The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Nov 3, 2017.
(This measure has not been amended since it was passed by the House on October 23, 2017. The summary of that version is repeated here.)
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Travel Cards Act of 2017
(Sec. 2) This bill amends the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to authorize U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to issue an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Travel Card (ABT Card) to an individual who: (1) is a U.S. citizen, (2) has been approved and is in good standing in an existing Department of Homeland Security (DHS) international trusted traveler program, and (3) is engaged in business in the Asia-Pacific region or is a U.S. government official engaged in Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation business.
The bill: (1) transfers card program authority from the the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Travel Cards Act of 2011 (APECBTC Act) to the Homeland Security Act of 2002; and (2) makes the program, which is scheduled to end on September 30, 2018, permanent.
The CBP shall: (1) integrate application procedures for, and issuance, renewal, and revocation of, ABT cards with existing DHS international trusted traveler programs; (2) prescribe and collect a fee for card issuance and renewal, and (3) notify Congress if card program expenditures exceed collected amounts.
The bill establishes in the Treasury an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Travel Card Account (Account).
(Sec. 3) Amounts in the travel card account under the APECBTC Act are transferred to the Account and shall be available for expenses incurred with any card, and such Act is repealed. A card issued pursuant to such Act before the date of enactment of this bill shall remain valid until it expires.