Across the Asia-Pacific, economies are growing, trade and investment flows are increasing, markets are more integrated, and there is an ever-expanding need for face-to-face business interaction. And yet, in this age of the Internet and accelerated business processes, business travellers still face many of the same obstacles they have for decades: the uncertainty, time and cost of applying for visas, especially when time is of the essence in resolving an unexpected problem or closing a big deal, the inconvenience of waiting in long immigration lines; and concerns about travel system integrity and security. These are challenges that APEC is addressing through the work of its Business Mobility Group (BMG).
Facilitating Travel in a Secure Environment
Expanding economy membership of the APEC Business Travel Card Scheme will benefit more frequent business travellers engaged in trade and investment activities. The APEC Business Travel Card currently provides cardholders of 17 member economies with priority immigration clearance on arrival and departure in major international airports and multiple visitor entry to participating economies over a three year period. Expansion of the scheme, with a view to attaining full APEC membership, will be an important BMG contribution to TFAP II.
As an additional contribution to APEC’s work to facilitate the safe and secure movement of business people, the BMG has also agreed on a significant capacity building programme to assist all economies in introducing biometric Machine Readable Travel Documents (MRTD) and related border processing systems by the end of 2008. This work complements APEC initiatives on Advance Passenger Information (API) and the multilateral Regional Movement Alert System (RMAS), which assist the identification of bona fide travellers and detect the use of lost and stolen passports that can be used by terrorists and other criminals.
Standards and Conformance
The independent development of diverse standards and regulations can create trade barriers and increase the costs of doing business. The impact can be particularly negative for smaller businesses for which the costs of having to conform to numerous standards regimes are disproportionately greater. The challenge for APEC is to ensure that different standards do not act as trade barriers, create unnecessary costs or inhibit innovation and, to the extent possible, align standards and learn from international practice. This important work is carried out in APEC’s Sub-Committee on Standards and Conformance (SCSC).