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Trade Goes Digital With Electronic Trade Act


It’s a huge step forward for the digitalisation of trade. The Electronic Trade Documents Act (ETDA) came into force on 20 September 2023, marking a significant milestone in the UK’s journey to digitalising trade.


It means electronic documents will now have the same legal status as their traditional paper counterparts.


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The new act places electronic trading documents on the same legal footing as paper documents.

This is a major turning point for the modernisation of international trade. The new law will allow the trade community to take advantage of paperless trade. And it could mark a move towards the wider implementation of digitisation in importing and exporting. With around 80% of trade documents worldwide based on English law, the act is an essential step in digitising international trade.


The government aims to make international trade cheaper, more sustainable and more efficient by removing reliance on paper. By removing the barriers of cost and time associated with paper documents, the act is anticipated to boost the UK economy by £1bn over the next decade.


What could be digitised?

The ETDA lists a few commonly used documents that could be digitised, including:

  • bills of exchange

  • bills of lading

  • warehouse receipts


What will the impact be?

It is expected to positively impact costs, helping to reduce overheads associated with paper documentation. It should also help with the duration and environmental impact of customs and border processes. The expectation is that it will improve the overall efficiency of trade and reduce administration costs.


How will it help businesses?

By placing electronic trading documents on the same legal footing as paper documents, the act helps businesses to move from paper-based to digital-based transactions. The new law will assist the UK to lead the way in digital trade and trade facilitation.

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