Trial was initiated as part of the Australia-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement and set out to prove whether trade documents could be issued and verified digitally across two independent systems.
Australian Border Force (ABF), the Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA), and Singapore Customs, along with industry participants, have undertaken a blockchain trial to prove trade documents can be issued and verified digitally across two independent systems.
The blockchain trial was initiated as part of the Australia-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement to make cross-border trade simpler between the two countries and reduce cross-border transaction costs.
The trial tested the interoperability of two digital verification systems: the ABF’s Intergovernmental Ledger (IGL) and IMDA’s TradeTrust reference implementation.
IMDA reports the trial demonstrated Australia’s capability in issuing high-integrity digital trade documents that can be instantly authenticated, provenance traced, and digitally processed.
QR-codes embedded with unique proofs are inserted into digital certificates of origin (COO), enabling immediate verification for authenticity and integrity of the document when scanned or machine-read.
The organisations claim that a mark of success of the trial is the acceptance of verifiable COOs by a regulatory authority, Singapore Customs. Trial participants from industry, including the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Australian Industry Group, ANZ Bank, DBS Bank, Standard Chartered and Rio Tinto, noted the benefits of improved efficiency through time and cost savings by using verifiable COOs.
“IMDA spearheads the development of digital utilities as baseline infrastructure for the digital economy”
“We understand this collaboration is among the first to involve multiple government agencies from two countries to achieve cross-border document interoperability,” said ABF commissioner Michael Outram.
He added: “Digital verification and verifiable documents show promise as a ‘circuit-breaker’ to disrupt persistent paper-based evidence required by authorities.”
The goal of the IGL platform is to progressively remove the need for paper documents and reduce cross-border transaction costs for Australian business, consistent with commitments under the Simplified Trade System reform agenda.
Both IGL and the TradeTrust reference implementation use the TradeTrust framework as the key underlying technology to allow interoperability, so the document can be verified by both systems.
TradeTrust’s approach to verification provides flexibility to allow documents to be verified not only in digital format but also when the documents are converted into a paper document at any point of the transaction.
“Digital verification and verifiable documents show promise as a ‘circuit-breaker’ to disrupt persistent paper-based evidence required by authorities”
Lew Chuen Hong, chief executive of IMDA, said: “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. This successful trial demonstrates TradeTrust’s value as a framework to connect governments and businesses for more effective trade flow.”
COOs are usually issued on paper and businesses regularly wait days to receive the hard-copy document via courier before dispatching to multiple parties, including customs agencies, brokers, and banks. Paper trade documents are generally required by authorities to prove authenticity and integrity.
Ho Chee Pong, director-general of Singapore Customs, reckons the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated trade digitalisation, and demonstrated the importance of cross-border paperless trade.