Australia-Singapore trial to simplify cross-border trade a success

By Shannon Jenkins

Thursday August 19, 2021

ABF commissioner Michael Outram said the positive results of the trial would help improve cross-border processes for the Australian trading community.
ABF commissioner Michael Outram said the positive results of the trial would help improve cross-border processes for the Australian trading community. (AAP Image/Joel Carrett)

A blockchain trial initiated by the Australian and Singaporean governments has shown that trade documents can be exchanged across two digital-verification systems, reducing cross-border transaction costs and removing the need for paper documents.

The trial was conducted by the Australian Border Force (ABF), the Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA), Singapore Customs, and a number of industry participants.

The interoperability of two digital verification systems – the ABF’s Intergovernmental Ledger (IGL) and IMDA’s TradeTrust reference implementation — were tested during the trial.

The collaboration was one of the first to involve multiple government agencies from two countries to achieve cross-border document interoperability, according to ABF commissioner Michael Outram. He said the positive results of the trial would help improve cross-border processes for the Australian trading community.

“ABF is proud to pioneer cutting-edge digital verification projects in Australia,” he said.

“Digital verification and verifiable documents show promise as a ‘circuit-breaker’ to disrupt persistent paper-based evidence required by authorities.”


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


The ABF’s IGL platform aims to remove the need for paper documents and reduce cross-border transaction costs for Australian business. IGL and Singapore’s TradeTrust reference implementation both used the TradeTrust framework, which allows interoperability.

IMDA chief executive Lew Chuen Hong said the trial has demonstrated TradeTrust’s value as a framework to connect governments and businesses for more effective trade flow.

“IMDA spearheads the development of digital utilities as baseline infrastructure for the digital economy. As one such utility, TradeTrust helps verify documents for more efficient cross-border trade,” he said.

The trial has also proven Australia’s capability in issuing ‘high integrity digital trade documents that can be instantly authenticated, provenance traced, and digitally processed’, the agencies said.

The blockchain trial was initiated as part of the Australia-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement to simplify cross-border trade between the two countries.

Trial participants included the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Australian Industry Group, ANZ Bank, DBS Bank, Standard Chartered and Rio Tinto.

One key success of the trial, according to the agencies, was the acceptance of verifiable Certificates of Origin (COO) by Singapore Customs. COOs are usually issued on paper, and businesses often wait days to receive the hard-copy document via courier before dispatching to multiple parties, including customs agencies, brokers, and banks.

Trial participants noted that using verifiable COOs would save time and money.

“The instant authentication of digital COOs is a meaningful step towards building a trusted trade ecosystem where verifying the provenance of goods is performed with great efficiency,” Standard Chartered Bank’s Himanshu Maggo said.

“The implementation of an IGL with electronic COO would lead to more effective and efficient cross border trade,” Australian Industry Group CEO Innes Willox said.


Read more: Commonwealth’s digital trade deal with Singapore begins


 

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