The Electronic Trade Documents Bill has entered Parliament with the aim of making it easier for UK firms to buy and sell around the world.
Under the Electronic Trade Documents Bill, digital trade documents will be put on the same legal footing as their paper-based equivalents to give UK business more choice and flexibility in how they trade.
The new legislation will remove requirements for all commercial trade documents to be handled in paper form. It will also modernise old legislation such as the Bills of Exchange Act 1882 and the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1992.
William Bain, Head of Trade Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “The introduction of this bill to the UK Parliament is very much a red-letter day as it will usher in a new era of simplified on-line trading.
“It will remove export red tape, including requirements for paper or wet signatures for certain trade documents. In the current difficult economic conditions, this can only be a good thing and exporters will be hoping the Bill becomes law very soon.
“It will give legal recognition to holding electronic trading documents instead of reams of paperwork and this will ease the movement of goods from the UK across the world.
“Together with other initiatives such as Single Customs Windows being pursued by the UK, EU and others, the e-commerce negotiations at the World Trade Organisation, and modern rules on data, customs and trade facilitation in new agreements with the UK’s trading partners, this represents a real move forward on digital trade for UK exporters.
“The challenge now is to ensure firms across the UK are able to secure the real benefits of these changes.”
It is hoped removing the legal obstacle to electronic versions of trade documents will significantly lower administration costs and provide a major boost to UK companies.