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By Sharanya

Digital Trade Legal Reform Board Formed by ICC to Support Digital Standards

May 18, 2022

As of the end of 2021, the ICC (International Chamber of Commerce) formed a digital legal reform advisory board that comprises industry, policy, and intergovernmental actors in the trade finance and global trade sector, intending to accelerate reforms needed to enable digital trade.

Launched under ICC’s DSI (Digital Standards Initiative) board, this Legal Reform Advisory Board, also known as the LRAB, is co-chaired by customs and logistics expert Valentina Mintah and Chris Southworth, Secretary-General of ICC UK. To date, the members of this board include noted associations like the following:

  • Bankers Association for Finance and Trade (BAFT)
  • Asian Development Bank (ADB)
  • The Commonwealth
  • International Trade and Forfaiting Association (ITFA)
  • ICC France
  • ICC Mexico
  • ICC Germany
  • United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL)

Having said that, 30 organizations in total have agreed to join the LRAB, but the entire list is yet to be announced by the board.

Things that the LRAB Aims to Achieve in the Medium & Long Run

The main vision of forming the LRAB is to add up the reach and influence of each member and drive a digitalised and harmonized trade environment. As per Steven Beck, the head of trade and supply chain finance at ADB, narrowing the US$1.7tn trade finance gap is essential for digitalization, but without an enabling legal environment, it might be challenging. The LRAB is formed to accelerate the need for reform and scale the existing efforts made in that regard.

  • One of the first aspects to be handled by the board will be maintaining the momentum at the G7 based on the commitment made by them to adopt electronic transferable records in international trade transactions. Along with this, the LRAB will also focus on scaling the initiative up to G20, a similar commitment they aim to achieve in 2022.
  • The LRAB will work within the European Union to get an EU-wide mechanism in place that facilitates the alignment of the EU laws to the UNCITRAL MLETR (Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records).
  • The board will seek to get funding for lower-income countries so that they can implement the necessary legal changes as well. On that front, the to-do list for the board also includes securing a Commonwealth Ministerial Commitment at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to be held in Rwanda in 2022 to integrate legal harmonization into the African Continental Free Trade Area framework.
  • One of the priorities of the LRAB board is also to work with the WTO and include a commitment to the MLETR alignment within its e-commerce plurilateral agreement.
  • The LRAB is also aiming to support individual governments so that they can use their bilateral trade negotiations (underway or already agreed) to build a network of modern digital trade highways and align legal frameworks.

The Secretary-General, Chris Southworth, mentioned that he aims for the expected number of countries getting on board by 2022-23 to be upwards of 100. He also adds that the formation of the LRAB and everyone coming together under one roof would send a strong message to the global governments and policymakers about the seriousness of the industry about affecting legal reform.

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