The BMG held its first meetings in 2015 from 30 January-2 February 2015 in Subic, the Philippines. With particular reference to APEC leaders, ministers, and senior officials' decisions of 2014, the BMG has further implemented its current work plan through the following initiatives outlined below.
Advancing Regional Economic Integration
APEC Business Travel Card Scheme (ABTC)
Members continue to promote the implementation and on-going maintenance of the APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC) Scheme to the fullest extent possible. Frequent business travellers that are ABTC holders enjoy pre-clearance and fast-track entry into participating APEC economies.
Review of the ABTC Scheme: The APEC-funded project for an End-to-End Review of the APEC Business Travel Card Scheme was completed. Members discussed recommendations from the review for further opportunities to enhance the ABTC Scheme. The final project report can be accessed here. Recommendations from this evaluation will be implemented by the ABTC Management Assistance project highlighted below.
ABTC Management Assistance Project: This project builds on work undertaken to ensure a high quality process and service through the development of the ABTC Operating Framework and associated Client Service Framework, and incorporating the recommendations of the APEC-funded end-to-end review of the ABTC scheme which is expected to be completed in late 2014. Recognising the ongoing importance of the ABTC scheme to the APEC region, the ABTC Programme Management Assistance Project seeks to build on the existing expertise of participating economies to continue to improve the world-leading travel facilitation scheme for business travellers. Through the provision of support and guidance to participating economies, the ABTC Programme Management Assistance Project will work closely with participating economies to strengthen administration of the scheme and to build technical expertise through the provision of workshops, training, seminars, and guidance material.
Extending the Validity Period of the ABTC Card: Members discussed progress and the way forward to implement the in-principle agreement to extend the validity of the ABTC from three to five years, with an implementation goal of 1 September 2015.
Handling Passport Changes: The Handling Passport Changes Project addresses the issue that many ABTC card holders will change their passport at least once during the current validity period of their ABTC card. It is important for economies to be able to better handle these passport changes quickly and efficiently in order to minimise disruption to cardholders. The project will amend the ABTC system to enable passport changes for ABTC holders to be automatically communicated to foreign economies when the home economy updates the ABTC system. The project will lead to a direct improvement in the experience for ABTC holders, whereby they will be less likely to be inconvenienced at the border when they have changed their passport during the life of their ABTC. The project is also a key objective for the BMG as once the systems change is made, it will allow members to further progress the in-principle agreement to extend the validity of the ABTC card to five years.
Improved Information to Cardholders: Members also progressed work to improve information available to ABTC holders by preparing a survey on pre-clearance policies, regulatory settings, and Frequently Asked Questions.
For more information on the APEC Business Travel Card Scheme: http://travel.apec.org
Strengthening Comprehensive Connectivity and Infrastructure
APEC Travel Facilitation Initiative: The BMG is continuing to work collaboratively on projects identified in the APEC Travel Facilitation Initiative, working closely with the Travel Facilitation Initiative Steering Council and relevant APEC groups, to enable more efficient, more secure travel, including the Trusted Traveller initiative.
Advanced Passenger Information Systems: By receiving passenger information in advance of travel, APEC economies can expedite the processing of legitimate travellers through ports of entry and focus on those requiring additional scrutiny. The BMG is working on capacity building projects through sharing of best practice methods to help economies implement Advance Passenger Information systems.
Expanding Regulatory Cooperation and Advancing Regulatory Convergence
Legal Infrastructure Standards: The BMG has continued to progress its review of the Legal Infrastructure Standards. This work was concluded intersessionally in 2014. The Standards aim to assist in further developing economies’ immigration infrastructures, which are critical for economies to achieve effective and efficient border management practices and procedures. The BMG agreed to review the infrastructure standards again in 2017.
Innovative Development, Economic Reform and Growth
Regional Movement Alert System (RMAS): The BMG is contributing to the APEC Consolidated Counter-Terrorism and Secure Trade Strategy, including through exploring the future strategic direction of the Regional Movement Alert System (RMAS) which will provide a real-time travel document validation service between economies. The RMAS Management Board continued work on a communications package, which provides interested economies with updated information on the system’s functionality and its benefits.
The APEC Business Travel Card
As a major support to business mobility, the ABTC provides bona fide business travellers with pre-cleared entry to participating APEC economies. The ABTC holders enjoy fast-track entry and exit through special APEC lanes at major airports, and multiple short term entries to these economies.
With Russia's accession to the scheme in May 2010, all of APEC's 21 member economies now participate. The fully participating economies are: Australia; Brunei Darussalam; Chile; China; Hong Kong, China; Indonesia; Japan; Korea; Malaysia; Mexico; New Zealand; Papua New Guinea; Peru; Philippines; Russia; Singapore; Chinese Taipei; Thailand; and Viet Nam. Canada and the United States are transitional members.
As per the APEC Policy Support Unit study on “The Impact of Business Mobility in Reducing Trade Transaction Costs in APEC”, the ABTC Scheme reduced transaction costs for ABTC holders by 38% between March-July 2010 and March-July 2011, representing a total savings of USD3.7 million. Total at-the-border immigration time savings experienced by ABTC holders for the period March-July 2010 through March-July 2011 is 62,413 hours, a monetary value of USD1.9 million.
In 2011, a new security-enhanced ABTC was circulated. The new card is equipped with features that can prevent alteration and counterfeiting. An ABTC website was launched in 2012 to provide information for clients (ABTC holders and applicants). You can visit the website at http://travel.apec.org.
APEC Business Travel Handbook is a practical tool which provides a quick reference guide to the visa and entry requirements of APEC member economies. It lists the basic eligibility criteria and procedures for applying for visas and the terms and conditions that apply to business travellers. This information is provided for both short-term business visits and temporary residence for business people in APEC member economies.
APEC Business Travel Card Scheme Review: In 2014, the group completed a project to review the ABTC Scheme from end-to-end, which resulted in a set of recommendations and advice on the feasibility of developing and implementing system and business process enhancements, taking into account the needs of business travellers as well as privacy, security, system and data requirements of each APEC economy.
Other Key Achievements
Border Capability Model: In 2012, the group adopted the "Border Capability Model" - a document that lays out key aspects of every step of traveller movement through air. The model identified “ideal” modern border security capabilities and improved border management systems across the region with respect to the movement of people. The document will serve as a map for authorities in member economies to identify areas for improving movement of citizens, especially for business travellers.
Travel Document Examination: The group also developed best practice travel document examination regimes across the region to assist with the detection of fraudulent documentation, including through the Regional Movement Alert System (RMAS) initiative.
Streamline Processing Procedures: BMG also examined ways to streamline processing procedures for business travellers, and individual economies' actions to facilitate business travel, for example, by expanding visa-waiver programmes or extending the validity of multiple-entry visas.
Trusted Traveller Characteristics: BMG accepted the Trusted Traveller Characteristics document that was coordinated intersessionally with the Sub-Committee on Standards and Procedures and the Counter-Terrorism Working Group. The Trusted Traveller systems would allow pre-screened, low-risk passengers to pass through customs more quickly, allowing border control to focus on higher-risk and unknown travellers.