The introduction of the Electronic Trade Documents Bill in the UK Parliament is of paramount importance to the digitization of global trade as the UK is the 6th largest economy in the world and the UK’s passing of this bill is expected to make a huge impact on the digitization of trade and spur many of their trading partners to follow suit..
It is also important because several bills of lading follow English Law as its jurisdiction.. English law has been long established as a favored law of choice by many, to govern commercial contracts as it is seen to be highly developed and robust, and the quality of its judicial and arbitration personnel is highly respected globally..
The common law system and the principle of precedent also have a great collection of past case laws which assists companies in determining possible outcomes in future disputes.
However, there are several processes involved in the removal of legal barriers to digitalizing commercial trade documents and aligning legal systems to MLETR..
Questions to expect about MLETR from lawmakers in your country
Based on the experience of the hearing of the bill in the UK parliament, Chris Southworth of ICC UK has given below tips on the kinds of questions to expect from lawmakers in various countries who are planning to support legislation to remove legal barriers to digitize commercial trade documents and align legal systems to MLETR..
Possession vs. control – for jurisdictions with an English law foundation, this has been a hot topic for lawyers throughout the consultation of Bill. Sarah Green gave a brilliant response to this in the last evidence session which you can watch on the link below. Effectively, it boils down to maintaining the wider advantages of English law in trade. Rather than changing existing legal concepts, align these concepts to MLETR.
Interoperability – be prepared to answer questions on why interoperability is vital and how it works in terms of systems connectivity and information flow.
What are other countries doing? – aligning legal frameworks is a collective endeavor so expect to provide an overview of the ICC target to digitize 60-80% of world trade by 2026, a state of play on which countries are undertaking the exercise, and explain why it matters that national lawmakers should support the effort.
Technology, safety, security – Questions assume the existing system is safe when it isn’t, and nor is it resilient as we discovered during Covid – fraudulent paper documents are commonplace, and commercial trade documents flying around in brown paper envelopes are open to all sorts of risks. Safe technologies, including military-grade solutions, have been operating in the market for some time now with little evidence to suggest anything other than digitized trade is far safer, more secure, and a lot more resilient.
Accreditation – this is an area of risk. The purpose of digitization trade is to create a cheaper, faster, and simpler means of trading. It would defeat the object if we strip out the inefficiency only to replace it with 200 uncoordinated accreditation schemes. The system currently operates perfectly well without accreditation so why would we suddenly need accreditation when digital? If we do, then let’s be led by the evidence not by fear, and if we do please have one common framework!
Each country will of course have its own process and steps to be followed in trying to get electronic trade documentation legalized..
With the issues surrounding interoperability seemingly solved, I would hazard a guess that it would be a matter of time before other major global trading countries also go the route of the UK and France who are also working on accelerating electronic trade documentation and trade finance..