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25 Oct 2022

CIF Weekly: Embracing the next chapter: The Electronic Trade Documents Bill and its importance for the future of international trade

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On 12 October 2022 the Electronic Trade Documents Bill (the "Bill") was introduced to the House of Lords and received a first reading. The Bill was drafted by the Law Commission, after a detailed consultation process on the legal recognition of certain trade documents in electronic form. 

The result is what is widely considered as the first attempt by English law to move beyond the "Possession Problem" (discussed below), and to recognise qualifying electronic documents as capable of having the same legal function as paper trade documents.

For international maritime trade – in which each transaction involves a complex matrix of contractual obligations (insurance, finance, carriage, customs etc.), and currently requires the transfer of large amounts of physical paperwork – this is nothing short of revolutionary: think (1) improvements in speed of document transfer and cost efficiency; (2) a reduction in delay, human error and fraud; and (3) more resilience in the event of another COVID-like scenario.

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