Standards Toolkit for Cross-border Paperless Trade

The Standards Toolkit for Cross-Border Paperless Trade is a joint publication by ICC Digital Standards Initiative and the World Trade Organization.
WTO Logo

Valued at US$ 28 trillion, global trade is the backbone of the world economy. However, trading across borders is a notoriously complex process and highly dependent on paper documents, in spite of decades long efforts to digitalise. A cross-border transaction involves multiple actors and on average requires the exchange of 36 documents and 240 copies. Currently, fewer than one percent of trade documents are fully digitised.

The recent pandemic has no doubt accelerated digitalisation. However, the lack of adoption of data standards and on how trade data are exchanged, combined with an actual absence of standards, significantly hinder the seamless data flow from one end of the supply chain to the other. This has diminished efficiency gains along supply chains and has weighed heavily on companies, in particular small businesses.

Despite calls for more standardisation, the real issue is the lack of alignment and awareness of existing standards. Although many organisations have been actively working on developing trade standards, adoption remains limited in large part due to the complexity and fragmentation of the standards landscape.

This toolkit provides an overview of existing standards to help drive adoption, identify potential gaps and promote interoperability. Its objective is to equip every supply chain participant, both public and private, with some of the most notable and widely used standards to help push trade digitalisation to the next level. In doing so, the international trade community will unlock the benefits of cross-border paperless trade by moving to a future of secure, trusted and seamless connectivity between parties in supply chains.

About ICC

ICC is the institutional representative of more than 45 million companies in over 100 countries with a mission to make business work for everyone, every day, everywhere. Through a unique mix of advocacy, solutions and standard setting, we promote international trade, responsible business conduct and a global approach to regulation, in addition to providing market-leading dispute resolution services. Our members include many of the world’s leading companies, SMEs, business associations and local chambers of commerce.

About WTO

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the only international body dealing with the global rules of trade between nations. At its heart are the WTO agreements, negotiated and signed by the bulk of the world’s trading nations and ratified in their parliaments. Its main function is to ensure that trade flows as smoothly, predictably and freely as possible, with a level playing field for all its members.