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Paperless Trade Promises to Boost Growth for UK Businesses and the UK Single Trade Window

Updated: Jan 23, 2023

In October, the UK government made the announcement that the Electronic Trade Documents Bill marks a significant step to make trade easier for businesses as will end the need for paper-based documents.

So what does the bill says?

  • By making digital documentation legally recognised, it will reduce admin costs as well as bureaucracy making it easier for exporters and importers to trade around the globe

  • It is not only costs, but also saving time as processing times will be cut to 20 seconds, and

  • Carbon emissions will be reduced by at least 10%

  • In simple terms, the Bill will enable British firms to trade internationally faster, cheaper and easier.

Business-to-business documents such as bills of lading - a contract between parties involved in shipping goods - and bills of exchange - used to help importers and exporters complete transactions - currently have to be paper-based due to longstanding laws.

The bill intends to modernise outdated laws with digital trade documents having the same legal footing as paper-based equivalents giving UK businesses more choices and flexibility how they trade.

This announcement continues to strengthen the UK’s position as a world leader in digital trade by removing the legal obstacles which were preventing industries going fully paperless. This will deliver cost efficiencies.

Whilst the Bill will allow businesses to choose to use electronic trade documents, it will not force them to do so - allowing them to use practices and processes which work for them. It will set a vital precedent for all sectors and industries using English law as a basis for international contracts, including across the Commonwealth.

The Chamber welcomes this news and believes that companies will benefit greatly by having the peace of mind that digital documents will have the same legal standing as a paper one.

To read the full press release by the UK government, please click here

Alongside this announcement, the UK Government also has plans for the launch of a UK Single Trade Window, which it is also seen as an important step toward the digitalisation of trade. According to IOE’s ‘Trade Data and Digitalisation’ Report (March 2022), digitalisation can make border processing faster by 90% and 60% cheaper, which will increase exports and returns on investments.

So, what is the Single Trade Window?

A facility that will enable traders – exporters and importers – to lodge all relevant documents in one single platform to meet export, import and transit regulatory requirements.

Currently exporters need to liaise separately with a wide range of UK government agencies such as HMRC, DEFRA, Home office and others. With the Single Trade Window (STW), the trader or intermediary will only need to go through the Single Trade Window.

The benefits for trade would be significant as the STW will make trade easier by making clearance faster, enhance trader compliance, encourage more efficient trader processes, reducing delays and supply chain costs.

However, as with any new system, there are challenges around data protection, data security, traceability, liabilities and more to consider. However, other countries around the world have been using similar systems.

Businesses can provide feedback and share their views completing a short 10-min survey here.

The Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, as the leading voice of businesses in the Greater Manchester region, continues to monitor closely developments impacting our members and ensuring businesses understand how these new development and regulations will affect their businesses via our events, newsletter, and policy & representation work.

Wish to speak to a Senior Manager at the Chamber about your Business, share your views or concerns?

Email our team at and we will be happy to arrange a one-to-one meeting.

Sources: UK Government, IOE

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