Dodwell in SOM1 Moscow - Post 2

February 06, 2012



Monday in Moscow was dedicated to ABAC’s favourite subject – the APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC). The Business Mobility Group, which has nurtured the development of the ABTC for more than a decade, had a meaty 17-item agenda dominated by issues of long-standing interest to APEC’s business community: extending the ABTC validity period from 3 to 5 years; shortening and simplifying the time needed to process ABTC renewals; coverage of the ABTC beyond the APEC region; and development of a “trusted traveller” scheme to build on the ABTC.
 


 


Of course, processing time, and the length of life of an ABTC to 5 years are closely linked: if it did not take up to 3 months to renew a card, I think many fewer business executives would not care much either way. We were able to get this point over, and I think, going forward, APEC officials will look at the two issues together. There still seems to be a reasonable chance that APEC members will soon agree to extending the life of the card to 5 years. The idea of a “trusted traveller” is an interesting one. In principle, the idea is an excellent one. But the proposal has come from the US, and is closely linked with Homeland Security issues – so it is not clear whether it would make life tighter and more restrictive for business travellers, or would truly make travel more hassle-free. Time will tell.

In addition, Monday’s BMG dedicated significant time to the ambitious APEC Travel Facilitation Initiative (document). This was first tentatively circulated by the US in San Francisco last September, but this was a first chance for some detailed discussion. This is something travellers in Asia – whether business travellers or tourists -  ought to get very excited about: a multi-year plan “with the goal of enabling more efficient, more secure, and less stressful travel”. The initiative has six major programmes of activity which will keep five of APEC’s most important working groups busy for several years:
 

  1. An airport Partnership programme – a comprehensive public-private partnership “to showcase best practices and build capacity on the efficient and secure processing of travellers”

  2. Development of the ABTC programme

  3. Fostering a regionwide “trusted traveller”  programme, “including automated entry processing and robust background checks”.

  4. Facilitating air passenger security screening.

  5. An advance passenger information programme that would expedite processing of legitimate travellers, and

  6. Public-private collaboration to speed checked baggage delivery for trusted travellers.


This huge programme of activity would involved five major working groups – the Business Mobility Group (BMG), the Transportation Working Group (TPTWG), the Subcommittee on Customs Procedures (SCCP), the Tourism Working Group (TWG), and the Counter-terrorism Task Force (CTTF).

Yesterday’s discussion made it screamingly clear that coordination of such a huge project will be a major challenge, compounded by the need for intensive private sector input. This coordination challenge is likely to be an important focus of discussion in Moscow over the coming two weeks, with clear proposals expected when Senior Officials meet on February 18.


* Read Dodwell's latest post from SOM1 Moscow

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