Costa Rica may be the United States’ largest trading partner in Central America, but Panama is the first country on the isthmus to receive elite membership into the U.S.’ Global Entry Program. The program allows pre-approved travelers from certain countries to skip immigration lines upon arrival in the U.S.
On Tuesday, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Panama’s President Ricardo Martinelli signed an agreement to expedite travel between the U.S. and Panama and to share criminal and other information. In the Americas, only Mexico and Canada are part of the Global Entry Program, and Mexicans are the largest group of members, with 36,000 enrolled.
U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow issued the following statement Thursday applauding Panama’s inclusion in U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP’s) Global Entry program, which expedites screening for pre-approved, low-risk travelers:
“Panama’s historic membership in the Global Entry program strengthens America’s trade ties and relations with an important Central American ally,” said U.S. Travel President and CEO Roger Dow. “Access to Global Entry will allow visitors from Panama to enjoy a better, more memorable experience in the United States, and be more inclined to visit again – all while strengthening security at U.S. ports of entry.
“Inbound international travel is America’s number 1 services export, and so expansion of the proven Global Entry program directly benefits the U.S. economy and job creation. The U.S. travel community warmly welcomes Panama and looks forward to further Global Entry expansion.”
In addition to expanding Global Entry, U.S. Travel is asking Congress to provide the resources necessary to hire at least 3,500 new CBP officers for U.S. gateway airports. This investment would make the entry process more secure and efficient, better enabling the U.S. to realize its goal of welcoming 100 million additional international visitors per year by 2021, which would add $250 billion to the U.S. economy.
U.S. Travel Association, www.ustravel.org