IOE&IT's Trade Data and Digitalisation Report sets out the opportunities and challenges of digitalising trade

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Digital technology has transformed our society and economy over the last three decades but, notwithstanding rapid growth in data, data flows, cross-border digital trade, and burgeoning new technologies, the digitalisation of international trade itself is proceeding only slowly and piecemeal.

Most transactions, involving multitude actors and processes, continue for the most part to rely on manual interventions. In the UK, as in other economies where international trade plays a big role, the benefits from the digitalisation of international trade will be particularly large. It warrants priority focus. Containing the additional costs that flow from Brexit and COVID-related supply chain frictions provide further reasons.

Digital trade also stands to benefit less developed economies which have the opportunity to ‘leapfrog’ those dependent on legacy trade infrastructure. Digitalisation however is complex and multi-layered, not least in terms of governance, and particularly in respect of services. To become a global leader in digital trade, progress is needed on many fronts, and will not be automatic: it is a big undertaking, both for government and business. To succeed, and quickly, a lot of things have to be got right

Minister for Exports, Mike Freer MP, was a virtual attendee at the Report’s launch on 15 March. He hailed a “paperless” future for trade and customs documentation when “the documents required to navigate customs can be transmitted in the blink of an eye from one side of the world to another”.

Progress will come when “freely moving data around the world, both between and within firms is just as important as freely moving physical goods and services,” he said.

The minister agreed with a key recommendation of the IOE&IT's report that government needs to work closely with the private sector to achieve digitalised trade.

The Trade Data and Digitalisation report is available for downloading here.