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Electronic Trade Documents Bill
By Sharanya

The Official Announcement of the Electronic Trade Documents Bill in the Queen’s Speech, UK

June 3, 2022

In the Queen's Speech (the start of the new UK parliamentary term) on 10th May 2022, His Royal Highness the Prince Of Wales and the UK Prime Minister announced the Electronic Trade Documents Bill. This means that very soon legal barriers to digitalising commercial trade documents in English Law will be dismissed and we can aim for a paperless world.

Now that it has been announced, the Bill will be taken through the parliament before it comes into force, which might tentatively be sometime in 2023. The Electronic Trade Documents Bill will be a significant step forward in finally merging trade to the modern era as this announcement will change the face of digitization and the world will see the use of electronic documents on a full scale.

The Top Elements of the Electronic Trade Documents Bill

The central purpose of this bill is to ensure that electronic commercial trade documents and paper documents have the same legal status, thereby aiming to remove unnecessary bureaucracy and extravagant paperwork. Once passed, this will authorise businesses to shift to digital-based transactions instead of paper-based ones when they are selling or buying internationally, helping them increase their efficiency and supporting economic growth in the process. This bill will expand and apply across the United Kingdom. Some of the primary elements of the bill include:

  • Modernization of long-standing statutes like the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1992 and the Bills of Exchange Act 1882.
  • The adaptation of new digital solutions that bypass the requirement of wet ink signatures or paper.
  • Ensuring that the digital trade documents meet all the criteria that imitate the key features of trade documents on paper. This involves exclusive control over the document.
  • Removing any legal obstacle in the way of using trade documents in their digital form and ensuring they have the same effect as their paper counterparts.

How is the Electronic Trade Documents Bill Beneficial in the Present Context?

The Electronic Trade Documents Bill is meant to lower trade administration costs for businesses and increase the overall efficiency because the processing time of the same is faster than paper documents and it is a cheaper alternative as well.

By making use of the traceability and transparency benefits offered by electronic documents, companies can raise the compliance and security of trade. Opting for a digital documentation process and reducing the use of paper & courier emissions in the administration of trade also means that one can contribute to the environment to a large extent.

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