UK gov’t introduces bill to digitize trade documents — potentially traced using blockchain


Members of the United Kingdom’s House of Lords have introduced legislation aimed at eliminating the need for paper trade documents, increasing the likelihood of using blockchain technology to trace records.

In an Oct. 12 announcement, MP Michelle Donelan and the U.K. Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said the Electronic Trade Documents Bill had been introduced in Parliament. The legislation proposed removing “needless paperwork and bureaucracy” by making digital documentation legally recognized for trade.

“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,” said the government, citing the World Economic Forum. “International trade still relies to a large extent on a special category of trade document which is dependent on being physically possessed by a person, and transferred over to another person.”

According to Donelan and the digital department, the bill would reduce carbon emissions related to documentation by at least 10% and cut down on processing time — the U.K. has roughly 28.5 billion paper trade documents on a daily basis. If approved, the legislation would allow businesses to provide electronic versions of documents including promissory notes, warehouse receipts, cargo insurance certificates and delivery orders from ships.

The Lord Privy Seal of the U.K.’s House of Lords introduced the bill, which, ironically, was “ordered to be printed” following the first reading.

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Under Prime Minister Liz Truss, the U.K. government’s plans for the economy seem uncertain following a now-scrapped tax cut plan that sent the value of the British pound crashing. The prime minister, who took office in September prior to Queen Elizabeth II’s death, previously said the U.K. “should welcome cryptocurrencies in a way that doesn’t constrain their potential.”