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28.05.2018 Tim Michael

The digital revolution is here. It’s changing the way we live – and the way we do business. So why isn’t world trade moving with the times? Governments and regulators across the globe seem to be stuck in a time warp.

At a recent seminar in Sydney, hosted by global trade credit insurance firm Coface and NCI Trade Credit Solutions, attendees were shocked to learn how slow the trade world has been to embrace new digital technologies.

In a keynote address, world trade expert Lisa McAuley, said the export and logistics sector is probably one of the most archaic when it comes to using paper.

Ms McAuley, the former head of the Export Council of Australia, and now Executive Director of Global Trade Professionals Alliance (GTPA) said exporters – particularly SMEs – are being “bogged down” by paperwork, bureaucratic red tape and arcane trade restrictions.

And these delays cost time and money.

At the same seminar, Michael Lim, Head of Tradeand Supply Chain, ANZ Bank, revealed his department processed “about 70,000 stacks of paper every month.”

And while many other countries, including Singaporeand Hong Kong are advanced in the development of a single window for trade, Australia is dragging the chain.

Ms McAuley identified the lack of a global harmonised documentation system as one of the biggest challenges now facing the export sector.

This issue has been around for nearly three decades – and for most countries it’s still sitting in the ‘too hard’ basket.

It’s ludicrous for major trading partners to have different sets of rules, regulations and documentation. This has created a bureaucratic nightmare for exporters.

For goods to move seamlessly across major trade routes, there must be a global international standard for export documentation.

And governments have a key role to play in this process.

The Australian government claims to be taking a leadership role on digital trade. It wants to bring down the barriers now preventing digital trade and e-commerce.

It supports paperless trading and online availability of import and export documentation and electronic submission of documents. It also supports cross-border transfers of information by electronic means.

But not all of our trading partners agree.

For Australian exporters, the wheels are turning way too slowly. We must embrace the new digital age as a priority or risk being left behind.


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