Government plans to introduce Electronic Trade Documents Bill

From: techUK
Published: Fri May 13 2022

What did the Queen's Speech tell us about the government's plans to put electronic trading documents on the same legal footing as paper documents?

One of the 38 pieces of proposed legislation revealed within the Queen's Speech on Tuesday (10th May) was the Electronic Trade Documents Bill which will put electronic trading documents on the same legal footing as paper documents. The government have decided to move forward with this reform following a consultation process and report published by the Law Commission in March 2022 - see here.

techUK welcomes this announcement which could have considerable positive impacts on the costs, duration and environmental impact of customs processes. techUK has worked closely with the Government on this proposed reform and have encouraged Ministers to further support the digitalisation of trade by providing importers the option of meeting compliance requirements through e-labelling.

What is the purpose of the Electronic Trade Documents Bill?

The government intends to introduce this Bill so that electronic trade documents will be accepted on the same legal footing as paper documents, thereby removing the need for wasteful paperwork and needless bureaucracy. This will enable businesses to move from paper-based to digital-based transactions when buying and selling internationally. This will help business efficiency and support economic growth.

What benefits does the Government expect the Bill to deliver?

Intended benefits of the Bill include:

  • Increasing efficiency and lowering trade administration costs for businesses because processing electronic documents is faster and cheaper than paper equivalents.
  • Raising the security and compliance of trade by utilising the transparency and traceability benefits electronic documents offer.
  • Realising environmental benefits from reduced use of paper and courier emissions in trade administration.

What do we know about what provisions will be in the Bill?

The government has given some insight into what the Bill will cover, including:

  • Bringing about much needed modernisation to long-standing statutes such as the Bills of Exchange Act 1882 and the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1992.
  • Removing the legal obstacle to the use of trade documents in digital form, and ensuring that such documents have the same effects as paper counterparts.
  • Allowing the adoption of new digital solutions which bypass the need for paper and wet ink signatures.
  • Ensuring that trade documents in electronic form meet certain criteria designed to replicate the key features of paper trade documents. These criteria include: ensuring that an electronic document is subject to exclusive control (only one person, or persons acting jointly, can exercise control over it at any one time) and once transferred the previous holder should no longer be able to exercise control over the document.

Relevant techUK programs:

techUK members and interested parties are invited to get in touch with the following techUK programs to stay informed on this Bill and other policy matters relating to trade, customs, and product compliance:

International Policy and Trade - see here
Trade & Customs Compliance - see here
Product Technical Policy & Standards - see here.

Company: techUK

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