DLT Projects in Trade, Trade Finance Have Matured: WTO, TFG

Research from the WTO and TFG suggests a material acceleration of projects, consortiums and companies using DLT and blockchain within trade and trade finance.

The WTO (World Trade Organization) and TFG (Trade Finance Global) have published an updated ‘Periodic Table of DLT Projects in Trade’, which maps DLT and blockchain projects aimed at achieving a globally harmonised, digitised trade environment.

The new publication, launched at the Hong Kong Fintech Festival on Thursday (5 November), updates the original periodic table published by the ICC (International Chamber of Commerce), WTO and TFG in November 2019.

The study maps 44 projects related to trade finance, insurance, KYC, shipping/logistics and supply chain, digitisation of trade documents and digitalisation of trade processes, as well as other projects such as marketplaces.

The study shows the forward progression in the maturity of the various projects and their underlying technology. It measures the average project maturity at 3.3 out of 5, compared to 2.3 out of 5 in the previous study. (A maturity indicator of 1 represents the PoC stage and 5 represents live and running / well established).

While highlighting 19 standardisation initiatives that work towards creating globally accepted digital standards for trade, the study notes that customs developments are trailing.

“The promising potential of DLT to facilitate international trade, from customs procedures to trade finance, will only be realised if regulation evolves to support the large-scale deployment of the technology and if a globally harmonised, digitised trade environment is put in place,” said WTO Deputy Director-General Xiaozhun Yi.

“This will require a global dialogue; a dialogue that involves all stakeholders, public and private.”

Earlier this year, ICC launched the Digital Standards Initiative, with the support of Enterprise Singapore and the Asian Development Bank and with participation from the WTO, to work towards the development of open trade standards to facilitate interoperability among blockchain-based networks and technology platforms in the trade space.

According to ICC Secretary-General John Denton, the Initiative will seek to directly address disruptions experienced during the Covid-19 crisis as a result of the reliance of trade flows on paper documentation.

According to survey analysis published in the study, the majority of the featured projects experienced a positive benefit to their DLT plans and activities as a result of the pandemic. The survey also identified legal issues, a lack of standards, and governance as the most pressing challenges.

The study is available for download here.

The report was authored by WTO Senior Analyst Emmanuelle Ganne and TFG Editor Deepesh Patel.

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