The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) has provided guidance to the trade finance market to address COVID-19 disruptions, urging governments and central banks to void any legal prohibitions on the use of electronic trade documentation.

Responding to the urgent need to address the disruptions facing the trade finance market as the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, ICC has provided holistic guidance to the market, governments and regulators through two official publications.

The ICC memo to governments and central banks on essential steps to safeguard trade finance operations is a direct call to action to governments and central banks to remove any reliance on paper-based trade documentation through this unprecedented crisis and adopt the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records. International legal standards can be readily adopted in national laws to provide legal clarity for banks to accept e-documents, to expedite the financing of trade transactions and the release of goods.

“With many banks unable to handle trade finance paper documents in person due to COVID-19, there is a growing risk that the underlying trade in goods could be disrupted,” says Olivier Paul, Director, Finance for Development at the ICC. “ICC and its members are taking unprecedented steps to limit potential disruption to the processing of trade finance transactions – yet, with the use of electronic trade documents in many jurisdictions either prohibited, or their legal status unclear, urgent government intervention is also required.”

financial technology

The guidance paper on the impact of COVID-19 on trade finance transactions issued subject to ICC rules complements the memo with technical guidance with regards to the modification and adaptation of ICC rules within certain circumstances. It does not pronounce whether any set of events could amount to a force majeure event; rather, in relation to ICC rules only, it provides indications on the factors which may be relevant in arriving at such a conclusion.

In turn, the paper reviews provisions from several ICC rules, namely the Uniform Customs and Practice for Documentary Credits (UCP 600) and its eRules (eUCP 600 2.0), the Uniform Rules for Demand Guarantees (URDG 758), the Uniform Rules for Collections (URC 522) and its eRules (eURC 522), the Uniform Rules for Bank-to-Bank Reimbursements under Documentary Credits (URR 725) and the Uniform Rules for Bank Payment Obligations (URBPO 750).

digital document processing
digital document processing

To read the memo, please click here.

To read the guidance paper, please click here.