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ICC publishes issues brief on facilitating trade through digitization

Trade Facilitation
Paperless Trade
trade finance
electronic bill of lading

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) recently published an issues brief outlining a number of model provisions that could form part of a new plurilateral agreement on trade digitization. 

Building on the WTO’s 2019 Joint Statement Initiative on Electronic Commerce (JSI), the ICC’s own Baseline Position for a High Standard Outcome (which sets out several ideas to enhance digital trade built upon the WTO’s landmark Trade Facilitation Agreement), and UNCITRAL’s Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records (MLETR), the issues brief outlines the following five core digital trade ‘pillars’:  

  1. Create disciplines to facilitate the digitalization of trade and trade finance instruments
  2. Ensure functional equivalence of digital data to paper-based documentation
  3. Ensure functional equivalence of electronic signatures to their manual equivalents
  4. Establish a preference for the use of electronic trade administration documents, including through the use of Single Windows and digital certification and authentication services
  5. Include an obligation to minimize the regulatory burden on electronic commerce

As outlined above and in the issues brief text, the ICC strongly recommends easing regulatory burdens on trade and trade-finance instruments, particularly in relation to crucial title documents such as bills of lading, were it argues that uptake of eDocs is still lagging as they are “perceived to be required to be in paper form to satisfy signature, originality and transferability requirements.” 

Furthermore, the ICC notes that customs procedures are still heavily reliant on hard-copy paper documents, resulting in delays and added costs for all trade participants – with “micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) […] disproportionately shouldering the burden” of these practices.

The publication of the recent brief comes as part of the ICC’s ongoing efforts in providing practical advice and guidance to trade stakeholders (in this case governments, regulators) on paperless trade – which, during the current Covid-19 pandemic, has since emerged both as a business continuity and health & safety imperative – with key initiatives such as the WTO's JSI presenting an “opportunity to build on existing trade disciplines and global best practices to fully realize the benefits of paperless.”


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