As momentum behind trade digitalisation builds, the WTO and ICC launch standards toolkit

Fri 18 Mar 2022
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) have published the first-ever toolkit to help companies and government agencies adopt standards for the digitalisation of trade processes.

Fewer than 1% of trade documents are fully digitised, the document’s authors say, and a typical transaction requires the exchange of 36 documents and 240 hard copies.

At the launch of the IOE&IT’s Trade Data and Digitalisation report earlier this week, IOE&IT director general Marco Forgione identified digitalisation of trade as "the most significant issue in international trade today". 

Existing standards

Following stakeholder consultations over the past year, the Standards Toolkit for Cross-border Paperless Trade pull together existing digital trade standards in an overview, identifying nearly 100 of them.

Same language

By leveraging a core set of standardised trade-related document and data formats, parties in global supply chains will be able to speak a universal language, regardless of the tools used, the ICC claims.

The report asserts that for many organisations working on developing trade standards, the issue is a lack of awareness of those that exist, due to the complex and fragmented nature of the standards landscape.

Toolkit contents

The document starts by covering foundational standards that govern the sharing of basic data, such as the United Nations Units of Measure standard used to quantify inventory items, and the ISO 20022 standard, which describes a common platform for the development of financial messages.

This section also covers master references for cross-border supply chains, such as the Electronic Business using eXtensible Markup Language, or e-business XML, which can provide an open infrastructure that enables the global use of electronic business information.

The Smart Maritime Network highlights the work of the Digital Container Shipping Association, with its standards for electronic bills of lading (eBLs), container track and trace, and just-in-time (JIT) port calls.

All supply chain players

Global supply chains involve many players and the report maps a range of foundational standards for adoption by all participants in world trade – such as country codes to legal entity identifier standards. It includes starting toolkits for various supply chain participants, from logistics operators to customs authorities.

Both ICC and the WTO will promote use of the new toolkit.