Electronic Trade Document Act enters into force with backing of UK businesses

Wed 20 Sept 2023
Posted by: William Barns-Graham and Thomas Lane
Trade News

digital trade

Legislation that has been heralded as paving the way for the greater digitalisation of trade procedures has entered into force today (20 September).

The Electronic Trade Documents Act (ETDA) received Royal Assent two months ago and has been described as being a game-changer for UK trade. The act could lead to £1.1bn of savings for businesses over the next decade, according to technology and digital economy minister Paul Scully.

It gives digital versions of key trade documents – including bills of lading – the same legal recognition as hard-copy versions. The change will update outdated legacy trade processes and bring the UK alongside Singapore and the United Arab Emirates as a forerunner for this next chapter for international trade.

Backed by business

Research from a recent poll, commissioned by the Institute of Export and International Trade (IOE&IT), finds that the majority of UK businesses welcome this move to digital trade.

The poll finds that 75% of businesses that attended a recent IOE&IT event on the ETDA believe it will have a positive impact on their business, 29% of which feel it will have a ‘very positive impact’. A quarter say it will have a neutral impact – and, significantly, none believe it will have a negative impact on their business.

Major boost

Marco Forgione, the director general of IOE&IT, said it was “great to see such overwhelming support for the incoming ETDA and the UK’s trailblazing approach to digital trade.”

“This new system will be a major boost to businesses. Trade will become much more efficient and cost-effective thanks to these changes. Whilst it is understandable that some businesses will have concerns about the new processes coming into place, and there may be potential ‘first-mover’ problems to overcome, we are eager to ensure these new streamlined processes are adopted by smaller businesses in the UK, not just the big corporates.

“Then there’s the longer-term issue of adoption on a global scale. To achieve a truly international trade ecosystem in the future, it is essential for other countries not only to follow, but to collaborate and keep each other informed about the progress of adoption of digital trade practices.

“We will continue our work with members to ensure business owners, especially those operating further down the supply chain, feel informed and confident about the move to digital trade and understand how to best prepare their business for the future with this new system.”

What this means for UK trade

IOE&IT has long been an advocate for the digitalisation of trade and has been updating members on the potential impact of ETDA throughout the last month via its Daily Update bulletin.

You can read these updates below: