Member countries of the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) group, meeting in the Philippines, are considering the development of a smart card system that would make it easier for people and goods to travel across the region. Business travellers could move among Australia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand using the proposed smart cards by the end of the year, if the system is adopted, the South China Morning Post has reported.
Participants in the system, proposed by the Australian delegation, are expected to be ready for implementation by the time of the next APEC meeting in November, also in the Philippines.
The smart-card system would not put an end to the need for visas or passports. Rather, it would serve as a prescreening system for frequent travelers, who would have to be nominated by their host countries. Laws would have to be modified to allow the use of the card, the Post says.
The proposal is one of a number of measures that APEC officials are examining with the goal of liberalising trade, boosting product standards and increasing economic cooperation within the region. The US has been pushing the member states to set a common policy on tariff-free trade in information technology and other areas. Final decisions are not expected until the November meeting.
Another move toward liberalisation would be the posting of uniform customs procedures on the Internet, which APEC members see as a possibility by the end of the year, the Post reports. APEC members are also making offers to allow greater competition in their telecommunications establishments, a key element to free trade and economic growth in the region.
APEC currently has 18 member states: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and the United States. Ten other countries and territories are seeking admission to the group.