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Paperless Trade and The Electronic Trade Documents Act 2023

Rachel Tilley Author: Rachel Tilley   |    On: Tuesday Oct 18, 2022

The Electronic Trade Documents Act, which received Royal Assent on the 20th July 2023, means paperless trading is now a reality for hundreds of UK businesses that buy and sell internationally.  The legislation for international trade documents to be physically owned and transferred from person to person has come to an end now the Bill has been introduced.

International Trade In The United Kingdom


The United Kingdom (UK) is one of the worlds largest importers and exporters, with foreign trade representing 55.5% of GDP in 2020 (affected greatly by the global Covid-19 pandemic) and currently worth more than £1.4 trillion.

The UK's biggest trading partners include the United States, Germany, France and the Netherlands, where goods such as vehicles, pharmaceuticals, precious metals and machinery are both imported and exported.

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International Trade Documentation

International trade and Brexit means a lot of documentation for UK businesses!  Keeping thorough and accurate paperwork is vital to avoid problems as well as to keep operations running smoothly. 

Common types of international trade documentation include certificates of origin, packing lists, invoices, export licences, insurance, dangerous goods paperwork, shipping notes, bill of lading or a waybill, letters of credit, CIM consignment notes....the list is pretty endless!

Processing and storing this volume of important paperwork requires stringent rules and polices to be in place that must be adhered to by all employees.  It is costly, inefficient and time consuming. 

What Is Paperless Trade?

Paperless trade means businesses are no longer bound by physical pieces of paper and can trade using electronic documents and communications.  The Act does allow companies to carry on using paper and existing processes if they wish, but those choosing to move away from paper based processes will find it easier to buy and sell around the world.  Not only that, but the speed of transactions will significantly increase while administration costs will be drastically cut.Trade docs

It is estimated that 28.5 billion paper trade documents are printed and flown around the world on a daily basis!!!

Digital documentation will become legally recognised enabling organisations to implement document management software and digitally organise, categorise and securely store all documentation.

Contract and invoice processing times can be reduced from weeks to days with a digital system, promoting growth while substantially reducing the carbon footprint of businesses.

It is estimated by The International Chamber of Commerce that SME's could see a 13% increase in international business with paperless trading.  

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Implementing Paperless Trading

Moving to a paperless trading system is never going to happen overnight.  It requires careful planning, process mapping and consultation with all those involved.  The benefits however will far out way any upfront work required and businesses will continue to see a Return On Investment year after year.

Save Time

On top of the monetary and environmental savings already mentioned, the time employees get back is where businesses will see the first real effects of paperless trading and a paperless office.

Paper administration, manual checks, rekeying information and searching for the required information trapped on paper takes employees longer than it should. 

Customers -muir"We have seen a 50% reduction in time that was previously wasted on finding documents, processing, manually filing and printing."

Technology Director, Muir Housing Group 

By removing paper in favour of a document management system and automated document workflows, information can flow seamlessly through the business.

Accurate Data Capture

Data capture

Information on a document entering the system is automatically extracted, captured and saved.  This captured information such as document type, date, supplier etc. becomes the criteria used to search for documents, with results brought back in seconds. 

Accurate data capture reduces problems associated with human error and manual data entry, and ensures the correct information is right from the start of any process. 

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Secure Storage

invoice padlockRelated documents can be linked together and stored securely, only accessible to authorised users.  The system takes care of saving trade documents for the legally required time, only deleting them once that period is up.  Digital documents are not kept longer than they legally should be.

Better Approval Management

With paperless trade and a digital system, there are no delays when waiting for document approvals.  A workflow starts when required, creating an email notification for the approver, along with a task in their to do list.  Approvals can happen in the digital system from anywhere with access to a mobile device.  Employees do not have to 'chase' staff around a business to get sign off, and paper documents cannot be left on desks waiting to be signed off.

Reminders are sent if the approval doesn't happen within a defined period and the next approver in line can be notified. 

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Paperless trade is now a possibility for companies up and down the country, enabling businesses that were previously drowning in paperwork to implement a digital solution. 

For any organisation looking to embark on a digital transformation project to save time, money and stress, speak with us, we will help.  The team at DocTech are experts in digital document management solutions and we'd love to share our expertise with you.

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Contact us now for more information 0161 647 7040