Electronic Trade Documents Bill entering Parliament will have 'considerably positive impact'

Wed 12 Oct 2022
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

UK Parliament trade documents bill

The Electronic Trade Documents Bill, which is entering Parliament today, will “have a considerably positive impact on costs, duration and the environmental impact of customs and border processes,” the director general of the Institute of Export & International Trade, Marco Forgione, has said.

Digital secretary Michelle Donelan said the new rules “will make it easier for the country’s firms to buy and sell around the world”.


The legislation will remove requirements for all commercial trade documents to be handled in paper form. The Bill will modernise old legislation such as the Bills of Exchange Act 1882 and the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1992.

A statement from the International Chamber of Commerce’s (ICC) Centre for Digital Trade & Innovation estimates that the Bill could generate £225 billion in efficiency savings, £25 billion in SME trade growth and £1 billion in new trade finance.

It could also “provide more transparency to help businesses, consumers and governments make more informed choices on the products and suppliers they choose while making international trade faster, simpler and cheaper for all involved”.

‘Considerably positive impact’

Forgione said the bill was a “vital development” in the government’s efforts to support UK trade.

He said:

“The Electronic Trade Documents Bill is a vital development for the improvement of the efficiency and sustainability of international trade.

“The Bill would place electronic trading documents on the same legal footing as paper documents and enable businesses to move from paper-based to digital-based transactions. This will have a considerably positive impact on costs, duration and environmental impact of customs and border processes and an overall improvement of efficiency for trade administration costs.

“The IOE&IT is already helping deliver the government‘s 2025 UK Border Strategy with the ecosystem of trust pilots and supporting with industry engagement on the single trade window. This Bill is an essential part of creating a world leading border system and encouraging more trade.”

Won’t happen overnight

The government’s plans to digitise trade and border processes are gathering steam, including the creation of a Single Trade Window portal.

The Centre for Digital Trade & Innovation in Teesside has also been established. In partnership with Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and the Department for International Trade (DIT), it is testing and connecting digital trade systems in Singapore and the UK, starting with electronic bills of lading.

Chris Southworth, the secretary general of ICC UK, said this initiative has been “established to align efforts across government and the private sector and accelerate transformation across the trade system”.

“We know from the evidence that there are terrific economic gains to be made for trade if companies digitalise systems and remove paper but this is not something that will happen overnight,” he said.

“Trade plays a huge role in the global economy so digitalisation is vital to establishing a more sustainable system,” he added. “Real time transactional data will enable us to gather far richer, more insightful information to help us track and monitor the flow of sustainable goods and finance across the system. This is simply not possible if information is held on paper documents”.