On 10th July, the Electronic Trade Documents Bill passed the House of Commons and is to return to the House of Lords to go through further amendments made by the lower chamber. The aim of the Bill is to remove existing legal impediments from the use of electronic trade documents, giving them equal legal functionality and recognition as physical paper documents and streamlining many traditional trade processes. It is predicted that this will save UK businesses as much as £1.1 billion over the next 10 years and could put the UK at the forefront of international trade – outpacing not only the G7 countries, but most of the world as well.
Charlie Bromley-Griffiths, corporate counsel at Conga, welcomes the bill and outlines how businesses can best prepare ahead of these changes:
“The Electronic Trade Documents Bill could provide more efficient and cost-effective outcomes for the shipping industry, removing complex and often burdensome processes. It will also significantly reduce the environmental damage from the widespread use of paper documents associated with everyday trade.
“However, for this directive to work, all businesses will have to review their operations to ensure data transfers are lawful and compliant. After all, risk comes with every trade document and contractual agreement. It is important that any suppliers or traders mitigate risk where possible and are mindful of this when rolling out any digital change programmes in response to new legislation.
“Of course, The Electronic Trade Documents Bill will make international trade more efficient, but leaders will need to get their houses in order and consider how their data is currently being processed. Integrating systems and streamlining processes should be a top priority, but organisations also need to ensure that all data is accounted for throughout the document lifecycle − this will be key, especially as they continue to adopt more technology, as we saw with the Schrems II legislation. Indeed, with Schrems II, organisations have had to adopt entirely new processes, digital tools and cross-border data flows to comply with the new export jurisdictions.
“Digital transformation is the future of business, so leaders need to embrace these changes with an open mind, as it presents an opportunity to reassess and streamline their revenue processes. In time, organisations will be able to consider how contracts and trade documents can be drafted more comprehensively and collaboratively across different business functions. As MP Paul Scully affirmed in his speech to Parliament, this marks a significant first step in the future of digital trade and could establish the UK as a world-leader.”