The first BMG meeting in 2013 was held on 28-31 January in the margin of the First APEC Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM) in Jakarta, Indonesia. The BMG agreed on a set of goals for 2013 in recognition of the Vladivostok Declaration, the directives and priorities of APEC Leaders and Ministers, Senior Officials, the Committee on Trade and Investment (CTI), and in support of Indonesia’s 2013 priorities of Attaining the Bogor Goals; Achieving Sustainable Growth with Equity, and Promoting Connectivity and the 2013 APEC theme of “Resilient Asia-Pacific, Engine of Global Growth."
The BMG goals of 2013 include: enhancing traveller facilitation and border integrity in the APEC region; making it easier and faster for people to travel to do business in the APEC region; and further enhancing the APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC) scheme.
The BMG met for the second time on 22-25 June 2013 in Medan, Indonesia and discussed the following key issues:
- The Group warmly welcomed Russia’s full membership of the ABTC scheme as of 1 June. As a fully participating member, Russia now permits ABTC card-holders from other APEC economies to enter its borders without a visa. Russian citizens are also eligible to apply for the card to enjoy facilitated entry into 18 other participating APEC economies without having to separately apply for visas. Those applying for APEC Business Travel Cards after 1 June 2013 will have their pre-clearance request go to Russia for consideration. Existing card holders or those who applied for a card before 1 June 2013 who seek pre-clearance into Russia must submit the request to their home APEC economy before it is forwarded to Russia. If approved, cardholders would require the issuance of a new card with "RUS" inscribed on the back.
- The Group finalised: (i) reporting protocols for lost and stolen ABTCs and accompanying website information for ABTC holders; and (ii) communication protocols for managing expedited cases in the ABTC scheme.
- The Group noted the amended ABTC Operating Framework, the text of which was finalised intersessionally to give greater certainty for the remaining transitional members and assist in their internal efforts to secure the necessary investments to become full members.
- Following the Group’s update of the Professional Immigration Standards at SOM 1, the BMG continued to update the Legal Infrastructure Standards. The Legal Infrastructure Standards are being updated to keep pace with developments in the immigration and border environment in the region.
- The Group is developing the full proposal on “End to End Review of the ABTC system” submitted in session 2. The BMG will engage a business analyst to analyse the process of applying for an ABTC from lodgement to decision with a view to providing a report to the BMG and possibly recommending a better operational model or other opportunities to enhance the Scheme. Based on the outcome of the business analysts’ report, the BMG will then consider the feasibility of implementing possible recommendations as future projects.
With regard to cross-group initiatives such as APEC Travel Facilitation Initiative (TFI), the Dialogue on Emergency Response Travel Facilitation (ERTF), and the High Level Dialogue on Travel Facilitation, the BMG will enhance its cooperation with other APEC working groups, including the Counter-Terrorism Task Force (CTTF), the Sub-Committee on Customs Procedures (SCCP), the Emergency Preparedness Working Group (EPWG), and the Tourism Working Group (TWG) to increase cross-group engagement and contribute where appropriate.
As travel facilitation covers a wide arrange of issues, such cooperation is necessary to bring synergy among various initiatives and resources of the relevant working groups. The BMG will also continue its close consultation with the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) to include private sector input. ABAC is invited to the BMG meetings to provide business perspectives on business mobility issues.
The BMG also discussed practical next steps to:
- Enable a stocktake of expertise available within APEC in relation to border capabilities (contained in the APEC Best Practice Border Capabilities Model for Air Travel, adopted by BMG in 2012) and border systems architecture; and
- Enable consideration of an appropriate pathway for economies to seek further expert assistance from other APEC economies with consideration of border capabilities or strategic configuration of capabilities, gap analysis and emerging opportunities.
The BMG will meet again at the first Senior Officials' Meeting (SOM) in China in 2014 and will continue its work intersessionally through exchanges of information with the aim of producing policy recommendations and follow-up actions on these issues.
The APEC Business Travel Card
As a major support to business mobility, the APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC) scheme 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 entry 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; Singapore; Chinese Taipei; Thailand; and Viet Nam. Canada, Russia and the United States are transitional members.
According to 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 APEC Business Travel Card was circulated. The new card is equipped with features that can prevent alteration and counterfeiting.
The development of a new ABTC website is underway. The new website will provide better information to both the ABTC holders and applicants on the scheme.
The APEC Business Travel Handbook
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 travelers. This information is provided for both short-term business visits and temporary residence for business people in APEC member economies.
Other key achievements of the BMG include:
The group is working on a ”border capability model” - a document that lays out key capacities in every step of business movement through air. The document will serve as a map for authorities in member economies to identify areas for improving movement of citizens, especially for business persons.
The group continues to work on building economies' capacity to process and adopt machine readable travel documents, to incorporate biometric data and to improve travel document security and integrity, thereby improving security and border control processes.
It also develops 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.
The group is also preparing and upgrading standards to improve the security of travel documentation and immigration legal infrastructure, so as to enhance the security of borders and address the illegal movement of people.
The group also examines ways to streamline processing procedures for business travellers, and individual economy’s actions to facilitate business travel, for example by expanding visa-waiver programmes or extending the validity of multiple-entry visas.
Agnieszka HOLLAND (Ms)
Border Security Policy Branch
Department of Immigration and Citizenship
Pangeran Ibrani SITUMORANG (Mr)