The U.S. House of Representatives today unanimously passed the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Travel Cards Act of 2011, H.R. 2042, cosponsored by Congresswoman Mazie Hirono, which makes travel to APEC countries easier for American business and government travelers. The Senate version, S.1487, introduced by Senators Daniel K. Akaka, Daniel K. Inouye, and Maria Cantwell, passed the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee last week and is now pending before the full Senate.
The bill would enable travelers that have been screened, are not security risks, and have an APEC card to have their visa requests reviewed faster, use the same customs lanes as air crews at airports, and take multiple trips to the 21 APEC countries for three years without getting a new visa each time.
"Creating jobs is the top concern of Hawaii's people. With the APEC Summit taking place in Honolulu, we have a unique opportunity to build relationships and show that Hawaii is one of the best places in the world to do business," said Congresswoman Hirono. "Our APEC partners purchase nearly 60 percent of U.S. exports and represent 2.7 billion consumers. Easier travel will help us build on those relationships beyond the summit, and forge partnerships that will grow our economy and support our families in Hawaii and the U.S. for years to come."
"Next month, APEC is going to put the spotlight on Hawaii, showing the world that we are not just a premier visitor destination, but also a place ready to do business," said Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa. "I applaud my colleagues for promptly passing this legislation that will help expedite international travel for U.S. business leaders and government officials looking to create and maintain partnerships with these world economies."
"I applaud the House for approving the bill unanimously and urge my Senate colleagues to pass this measure before the historic APEC summit meetings in Honolulu next month, to demonstrate our nation's partnership with these regional economies," said Senator Akaka. "Our islands have so much to offer the world and this program to expedite travel will help Hawaii strengthen business relationships with APEC countries."
"This is precisely the type of job creating legislation that acknowledges the economic engine of Asia by providing for expedited travel between APEC nations," said Senator Inouye. "The passage of this bill sets an important precedent ahead of the APEC meetings in Honolulu next month and it is my hope that it will help spur fruitful discussions between participating countries about creating partnerships and expanding our individual economies."
The APEC Business Travel Card program was started in 1997 and has already been adopted by 18 of the 21 APEC member countries. The legislation is supported by the National Center for APEC, National Foreign Trade Council, US-ASEAN Business Council, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, US-China Business Council, and U.S. Council for International Business.