The new Electronic Trade Documents Act gives UK businesses the legal power to use paperless trade documents for the first time in history.

Paul Armstrong, technology lawyer at Womble Bond Dickinson, a partner to the Centre for Digital Trade and Innovation (C4DTI) which is playing a leading role in accelerating the digitalisation of trade, said:

“This Act marks a new chapter in the history of trade and throws open the doors of opportunity to businesses. It isn’t just about UK businesses either, English law has previously been the backbone for a lot of international trade activity, so it’s likely we’ll see others following suit.

“This new legislation will reduce friction associated with international trade, reduce the expensive anomalies associated with paper-based trade for the financial sector, level the playing field for SMEs, and achieve carbon emissions reductions by potentially more than 10%. Current trading produces an estimated 28.5 billion paper trade documents printed and flown around the world daily.

“Womble Bond Dickinson has worked with C4DTI, a UK-based global initiative led by ICC United Kingdom since its launch to blaze a trail for the implementation of the Act. C4DTI is carrying out pilot projects –with our legal support - that test the new digital trading process to show how it works.

“Now that this Act has been introduced, platform providers in the marketplace will have additional opportunities to market and develop their solutions. Companies who embrace digital trade will have digital data about their supply chains more readily available making it easier for them to spot vulnerabilities in their supply chain as well as being able to map scope 3 emissions.

“This Act brings the sometimes-theoretical world of distributed ledger technology – the idea of an unchangeable record of a transaction - into the real world, a significant step that is likely to cause many other changes to the way businesses interact across the world.”