ABF and Singapore launch blockchain trial in hope of increasing trade efficiency

By Shannon Jenkins

Thursday November 26, 2020

Michael Outram (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

The Australian Border Force has this week joined up with the Singaporean government to launch a blockchain trial as part of the commonwealth’s broader plan to simplify cross-border trade.

The ABF on Wednesday announced it would test digital-verification systems in partnership with Singapore Customs and the Singapore Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).

The first system will be developed by Australian and Singaporean “experts” at the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business using blockchain technology, for the purpose of inter-government document exchange.

ABF commissioner Michael Outram said his organisation looks forward to working with international partner agencies on “mutual border modernisation programs”.

“The ABF welcomes the opportunity to collaborate further with Singapore to improve cross-border trade between our countries,” he said.

“In addition to our efforts internationally, this initiative will incorporate paperless trading and secure, digital exchange of trade information as part of the future architecture and design of an Australian Trade Single Window”.

The trial will test digital verification platforms across the ABF’s Intergovernmental Ledger (IGL) — a capability to share documents electronically between participating governments — as well as the IMDA’s TradeTrust.

The Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources’ National Blockchain Roadmap notes that in international trade, an importing regulator has no direct relationship with an exporter and there is no digital mechanism to verify documents they provide.

“This leads to the importing regulator to rely upon physical documents — supported by signatures and wet stamps — to validate the claim or information on that document, rather than being able to use digitised data. Moving these paper documents adds costs and delays to the international trade process,” the document said.

“The IGL aims to assess the viability of replacing paper documents with high-integrity digital processes. IGL involves a blockchain solution that will help streamline the process, reduce costs and reduce compliance issues at the border by creating a ledger of electronically verifiable digital documents, suitable to all trading partners.”

Read more: Blockchain in government: the possibilities after the hype

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Australian Industry Group, and financial institutions in Singapore, including ANZ, will take part in the trial. Lessons learned will contribute to the supply chain working group’s discovery report under the National Blockchain Roadmap.

The trial aligns with the bilateral Australia-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement, and supports the government’s recently announced “simplified trade agenda”, which will reform and digitise trade compliance processes, the ABF said.

The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment has also been working with Singapore regulators on complimentary digital initiatives, with the aim of progressing paperless trading for phytosanitary and sanitary certificates for food and agricultural trade.

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