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Digitisation of trade docs would save firms £1.1bn and put UK ‘ahead of G7 and most the world’

Businesses are expected to save £1.1 billion over 10 years through a proposed change in the law that will allow for greater digitalisation of documents used in international trade, a minister has said.

Minister for tech and the digital economy Paul Scully said the change would put the UK at the “forefront of international trade as thought leaders”.

The Electronic Trade Documents Bill cleared the Commons on Monday and will now return to the House of Lords, where it has already cleared its main scrutiny phases but where peers will have the chance to consider amendments made by the lower chamber.

Mr Scully told the Commons: “This Bill will put the United Kingdom ahead of not only the G7 countries but almost the whole world.

“The UK is setting the approach which other jurisdictions will seek to follow, not just on the digitalisation of trade documents, but the future digitalisation of all trade towards which this Bill is an important first step.”

He added: “This Bill has global transformation potential. It will place the UK at the forefront of international trade as thought leaders for others to follow. It will also save businesses… an estimated £1.1 billion over the next 10 years.

Shadow minister Alex Davies-Jones said Labour supported the Bill as a “long-overdue reform”, and said paper trade documents have a “significant environmental cost”.

Conservative MP Anthony Mangnall (Totnes) said it was an “extremely exciting” and “extremely welcome” Bill.

“This Bill will streamline trade,” he said, adding that together with other measures taken on trade, “we’re actually making real progress.”

The Bill follows recommendations from the Law Commission for England and Wales, and changes brought in by the Bill will apply to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, with some exceptions for certain clauses.

The Institute of Export and International Trade’s director general, Marco Forgione, said the Bill is a “vital development for the improvement of the efficiency and sustainability of international trade”.

He added: “This will have a considerably positive impact on costs, duration and environmental impact of customs and border processes and an overall improvement of efficiency for trade administration costs.”

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Digitisation of trade docs would save firms £1.1bn and put UK ‘ahead of G7 and most the world’

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