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In this episode of Trade Finance Talks, Deepesh Patel, editor at TFG was joined by Chris Southworth, co-chair of Legal Reform Advisory Board at ICC Digital Standards Initiative, and Nick Davies, director of the Centre for Digital Trade and Innovation. 

The trio explored the next steps, key actions, and ways to drive the adoption of digital trade.

Southworth and Davies emphasised the importance of collaboration and working together to modernise the global trading system for the digital economy.

In order to truly move forward to the next steps in this process, the industry needs to adopt electronic negotiable instruments such as ePU, eBLs, and eBoE, making sure these transactions go digital. 

But transitioning to this digital reality is not always easy. The “first mover disadvantage” is a legitimate fear for many in the industry. And with so many diverse actors in the field, this issue can create widespread paralysis.

In addition, they mentioned the Gartner hype cycle and its relevance to digital trade.

Key conference takeaways?

One of the major takeaways from the conference was the need for legal environment reform. 

An essential aspect of digital trade is understanding which documents matter the most, and how they are being implemented in day-to-day activities. 

By understanding how the industry actually uses these instruments, we can better learn from previous successes and failures, and collaborate on the best strategies moving forward.

The discussion highlighted the progress of the Electronic Trade Documents Bill (ETDB) and its potential implications once enacted. With the adoption of the ETDB, the door opens for similar bilateral trade agreements in Commonwealth countries. 

Though the adoption of legal standards is a major milestone for digital trade, it’s essential to foster engagement from real trading communities to make a difference.

Southworth and Davies also emphasised the importance of interoperability, open systems, and agnosticism towards technology solutions. The future of digital trade will likely feature a mixed economy with both closed and open systems. Having this choice will help bring costs down and make the trading environment more accessible.

Furthermore, the discussion underscored the need to communicate the benefits of digital trade in a simple manner, without scaring or confusing companies and using inaccessible language.

Advocates should focus on conveying the cheaper, faster, simpler, more secure, and more sustainable aspects of digital trade to encourage its adoption.

Finally, it’s essential to stay future-proof and be conscious that many companies still need to be in the room. 

Governments, institutions, and businesses must work together to create a digital trading environment that benefits all, ensuring that no one is left behind.