Global Entry pilot program the right move

By:  Editorial Board
In this world of political unrest, threats of war, accusations of racism and childish name-calling and insults, it’s nice when you hear of a program between countries that it seems no one could oppose and, really, just makes sense.

And what is this program?

Sen. Mazie K. Hirono recently announced that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection department has launched a Global Entry pilot program with Japan, which allows up to 1,500 Japanese citizens as determined by the government of Japan and CBP, who have received a promotional code, to apply for global entry.

The Global Entry Program allows expedited screening for trusted travelers visiting the United States, including TSA PreCheck privileges.

Now, that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it is.

According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, nearly 1.5 million Japanese citizens visited Hawaii in 2016 — spending over $1 billion and supporting over 26,000 jobs. The U.S. Commerce Department estimates nearly 3.6 million Japanese citizens visited the United States in 2016 and spent $16 billion, making Japan the fourth largest market for U.S. travel and tourism exports.

“Japan’s inclusion in the Global Entry Program further strengthens our longstanding alliance and U.S. ties to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region,” Hirono said. “Implementing this new pilot program will expedite and simplify the process for Japanese visitor arrivals in Hawaii and better serve Hawaii’s largest international visitor market.”

Hirono, a Japan native, was an early advocate of Japan’s inclusion, leading a bipartisan letter in 2014 to encourage the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to add the country to the Global Entry Program. She has also led similar efforts in support of India and Singapore’s inclusion in the Global Entry Program. Singapore and India’s inclusions were finalized in June 2016 and June 2017, respectively.

The U.S. already operates full Global Entry partnerships with other countries: South Korea, the Netherlands, Panama, Germany, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Colombia, Switzerland, Argentina and India.

George D. Szigeti, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, applauded the program.

“As the Hawaiian Island’s largest international source market of visitors, this decision is welcome news for our tourism industry and will further strengthen the strong cultural bond Hawaii already enjoys with Japan,” he said. “The addition of Japan to this program will make it more enjoyable and convenient for Japanese residents to visit the Aloha State on leisure and business.”

This program makes sense. Japan has become a strong economic and diplomatic partner with America. And considering the precarious relationship between North Korea and America, we want Japan’s support. Frankly, we need it, too. Programs like this can impact the level of that support on larger issues.

As Mufi Hannemann, president and CEO of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association, pointed out, Japan is Hawaii’s oldest and largest Asian tourism partner, and any effort to streamline travel between the two countries can only benefit the visitor industry, local and national economies, and strengthen relations among friends and allies in the Asia-Pacific region.

There is often dissention between countries, which is to be expected. But when we can work together, particularly with relatively simple concepts like this one, we should.