David Dodwell's Blog on APEC Senior Official Meetings in Lima - Blog 3

August 18, 2016


The treasured APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC) consumed a full meeting of the Business Mobility Group on Monday in Lima – with numerous proposals for improvement. At centre was preparation for a technical workshop planned for November in Australia intended to introduce member economies to “E-Lodgement” – how to enable applicants for the ABTC to complete their applications on-line, and how to process those applications electronically.
 
For those who attended the ABAC3 meeting in Shenzhen two weeks ago, you will know that E-Lodgement is ABAC’s current highest priority for improving the usefulness of the ABTC. You will also have been introduced by ABAC Thailand on how E-Lodgement is now up and running in Thailand. It seems we currently have three APEC economies that have introduced E-Lodgement systems – Singapore, China and Thailand. Their case experience is expected to be at the heart of the November workshop, and the hope is that this will enable numerous other economies to introduce E-Lodgement at speed.
 
For the technically-minded, the BMG discussion was heavily focused on overcoming the technical challenges linked with issuing fast-increasing numbers of ABTCs - batch up-loads and down-loads, and improvement of “interface control documents” and so on. This was all a bit mind-numbing, but the gist is that immense effort is being put into speeding the issuance of cards as the volume of cards in circulation grows.
 
One point that surprised me was that ABTCs still “expire” when a holder’s passport is changed. I had thought this problem had been solved when last year BMG agreed to introduce arrangements enabling officials to update ATBT details on-line. But I was wrong. The cards still need to be changed when a passport is changed, in part because the passport number is physically printed on the ABTC. So the bad news is that we still have to change our ABTC when we change our passport. The good news is that changing the card is a simple and fast process that can be managed within your economy, without the need to tramp around all 21 economies to win fresh approval for the card.
 
Among the other important issues coming up over the horizon is the clamour from other parts of APEC for new kinds of APEC card, based on the successful model of the ABTC. Alongside calls for a special card for emergency responders, and for the region’s international workers, there is now a call from APEC Philippines in the Policy Partnership for Science, Technology and Innovation for an APEC Innovation Mobility Card to enable “registered experts” that have a “certified need to travel regularly” to move more easily around the region. Quite how this will work, heaven knows, but the message is clear: on the back of successful development of the ABTC, demand for other kinds of travel-easing card are growing. Watch this space.
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