The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) have today published the first-ever toolkit to help companies and government agencies adopt available standards to accelerate the digitalisation of trade processes.

Drawing on stakeholder consultations through ICC’s Digital Standards Initiative (DSI) over the past year, the toolkit emphasises that one of the primary barriers to the adoption of paperless processes is a lack of awareness of existing standards for digital trade. 

Currently, fewer than 1% of trade documents are fully digitised globally – with a typical transaction requiring the exchange of 36 documents and 240 copies in hard-copy.

In this context, the Standards Toolkit for Cross-border Paperless Trade provides the international trade community with a comprehensive overview of existing digital trade standards that can be used to facilitate trusted, real-time supply chain collaboration, and real-time data exchange.

To this end, the toolkit identifies close to 100 available standards, frameworks, and initiatives that offer the potential to enable all parties in global supply chains to speak the same, universal language – regardless of the tools used to automate processes – by leveraging a core set of standardised trade-related document and data formats.

The report was co-authored by Emmanuelle Ganne, senior analyst at the WTO, and Hannah Nguyen, director of digital ecosystems at the ICC DSI.

Speaking on the launch of the toolkit, Ganne said: “Our objective is to equip every supply chain participant with some of the most notable and widely used standards to help push trade digitalisation to the next level.”

Nguyen added: “Our toolkit provides an easy-access guide to the many existing standards for trade digitalisation. 

“We hope that building awareness and understanding of these will drive convergence across international supply chains and thus promote genuine interoperability for paperless trade processes.”

The report maps a range of foundational standards for adoption by all participants in global trade – such as country codes to legal entity identifier standards – while also incorporating starting toolkits for various types of supply chain actors, from logistics operators to customs authorities.

Both ICC and the WTO will work to promote use of the new toolkit through their respective networks, and will continually update the standards covered to ensure the toolkit remains relevant to all intended users.