Businesses have been told to get ready for the digitalisation of international trade following last week’s initiation of key legislation that could pave the way for digital documents to be used in the UK.
The Electronic Trade Documents Bill was introduced to Parliament last week and will remove the requirement for all commercial trade documents to be handled in paper form.
The legislation has been widely hailed as being transformative, with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) claiming that digital documentation could generate £225 billion in efficiency savings, £25 billion in SME trade growth and £1 billion in new trade finance.
It is hoped that the bill, if passed, will enable the government to deliver its 2025 Border Strategy, including the introduction of a Single Trade Window through which traders will be able to submit all information relating to their goods through one, single sign-on government portal.
Currently traders have to input data about their goods into multiple systems.
Marco Forgione, the director general of the Institute of Export & International Trade, has said that the bill will have a “considerable, positive impact”.
“The bill places electronic trading documents on the same legal footing as paper documents and enables businesses to move from paper-based to digital-first transactions.
“This will have a considerable, positive impact reducing costs, the duration and environmental impact of customs and border processes, and an overall improvement and increased efficiency for trade administration.”
He added that the bill comes at a time of significant change for UK trade and will act as a key enabler for this:
“All free trade agreements the UK is entering into include digital chapters. We are witnessing a momentous shift in the transition to digital trade and the Electronic Trade Documents Bill is the enabling factor to unlock this.”
‘Reap the benefits’
Forgione urged businesses to now prioritise gaining an understanding of how to use digital documentation in order to “reap the benefits” of the technological evolutions the UK is now delivering for border and trade processes.
He pointed to a new programme of training being delivered by the IOE&IT, alongside the ICC.
“What businesses need now is an understanding of how to implement digital documentation into their businesses and reap the benefits of this technology.
“The IOE&IT, in conjunction with ICC though the Centre of Digital Trade & Innovation, will be running a number of courses to help businesses gain that understanding and take full advantage.”
New training support
Alongside the ICC, the IOE&IT is now offering two courses to support businesses adopt electronic documentation:
- International trade documentation - going digital
- Digital identity: connect to virtual trust networks
The trade documentation course will enable firms to learn how to handle international trade documents in digital form and to gain a comprehensive understanding of how to maximise the benefits from going digital.
The digital identity course will help businesses to learn about digital identities, including their vital role in the future of global trade and how having your verifiable credentials can benefit your business in the world of trade and finance.
Businesses can book onto the courses now, with the first date of delivery being 27 October 2022.