U.K. Move to Digitize Trade Documents Could Rely on Blockchain, Government Says

The Electronic Trade Documents Act, set to take effect later this year, could make use of blockchain tech to improve security and reduce costs.

AccessTimeIconJul 27, 2023 at 11:21 a.m. UTC
Updated Jul 27, 2023 at 12:48 p.m. UTC

A U.K. initiative to digitize trade documents could make use of technologies that underlie crypto, the government has said.

The Electronic Trade Documents Act 2023, which officially became law on July 20, stands to reverse centuries-old merchant laws to allow trade documents to be stored and distributed digitally. The laws are set to take effect this autumn.

The act is technology neutral and will allow the use of blockchain technology if it meets the reliability test, a government spokesperson told CoinDesk.

The Law Commission for England and Wales, the independent statutory body that drafted the bill, estimates that billions of papers are passed around annually with global shipments, because that’s the only way they can be transported.

The act’s significance “is that it allows electronic documents to be treated as legally analogous to paper if they meet certain criteria,” Law Commissioner Sarah Green told CoinDesk in an emailed statement, adding that blockchain technology happens to be one of the means by which such documents can meet those criteria.

“Electronic trade documents also increase security and compliance by making it easier to trace records – for instance, through the use of blockchain and distributed ledger technology,” a government press release on the act said.

This is a “step forward” for the U.K., according to James Butterfill, head of research at CoinShares. Using blockchain technology to distribute trade documents digitally could improve workflow and efficiency and in the long run, reduce costs and ensure compliance, he added.

Edited by Sandali Handagama.


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Camomile Shumba

Camomile Shumba is a CoinDesk regulatory reporter based in the UK. She previously worked as an intern for Business Insider and Bloomberg News. She does not currently hold value in any digital currencies or projects.