International law firm Womble Bond Dickinson (WBD) has supported a globally-focused initiative on the understanding of a new act which has culminated in a new report into how international trade is rapidly changing within the UK.

The firm has assisted with the preparation of a joint report from ICC United Kingdom and the Centre for Digital Trade and Innovation (C4DTI) which focuses on the opportunities which can be found with the increasing digitalisation of trade practices.

The report, titled 'Seizing the moment: Unleashing the potential of trade digitalisation', sets out the benefits which can be found in the Electronic Trade Documents Act and highlights case studies which are already working towards delivering a paperless trade ecosystem and innovating trade finance.

The Act, which came into force in September 2023, provides businesses in the UK the power to use paperless trade documents, which aligns the UK to trade systems in other countries.

This could enable between 80-90% of all international trade transactions to be handled digitally, including 60% of global trade finance, which represents a potential $10 trillion in trade growth across the G7 and Commonwealth. 

WBD has been providing pro bono support to C4DTI over the past year and has enabled the implementation of data sharing agreements to drive forward cross-border collaborations, provided support on some of the pilot projects highlighted in the report, and worked with the centre and other law firms to provide legal comfort around emerging trade initiatives and the Act.

Paul Armstrong, Managing Associate in WBD's commercial team, said:

"It is incredibly pleasing to see our team's work help create this ground-breaking report from the C4DTI and ICC United Kingdom. It is a privilege to be part of this innovative shift in international trade.

WBD is a strong advocate for the work of the C4DTI and the digitalisation of UK trade. This report and the Act mark another strong step in the right direction, and we are excited to have our legal experience across a range of sectors play a key role in helping drive these initiatives forward.

We look forward to continuing this growing partnership, and to helping the C4DTI further its goals and expand its reach and capabilities as this new area of trade in the UK continues to bloom."

While acknowledging momentum on trade digitalisation is growing, the report also highlights that some barriers still remain, with the fragmented nature of trade processes within companies and government departments needing stronger coordination between all parties to capture the maximum benefit.

Chris Southworth, Secretary General of ICC United Kingdom, said:

“We believe the time is now for a much-needed overhaul of the way we trade. It is time to remove paper and antiquated processes once and for all and use far more effective ways of operating using technology. This report begins to set out the scale of the opportunity on offer.”

Aimed at key decision-makers in corporate finance, strategy teams within companies, and policymakers within governments, the report highlights how the change in law can allow for rapid transactions and allow companies to handle finance with more agility.

Evidence highlighted in the report shows this increase in speed can result in a 100% increase in trade flow, 15% increase in profitability, and an 18% reduction in shipping costs.

To read the full report, please visit the ICC United Kingdom website.