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ICC – renowned for its global standards that enable trillions of dollars of cross-border transactions each year – has announced the operational launch of a major new initiative to ensure the benefits of digital trade can be realised by everyone, everywhere.

The ICC Digital Standards Initiative (DSI) will work towards the ambitious aim of establishing a globally harmonised, digitised trade environment – directly addressing disruptions experienced during the COVID-19 crisis as a result of the reliance of trade flows on paper documentation.

Although the workplace implications of the pandemic have accelerated adoption of digital technologies, significant barriers remain to the digitisation of trade-related processes. Outdated regulatory environments frequently force businesses to use hard-copy documents to satisfy local legal requirements when transacting across borders; while the cost implications of siloed – and often incompatible – industry initiatives discourage adoption of digital systems by micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises.

In this context, the DSI will leverage ICC’s independence, integrity and convening power to drive harmonization of digital processes across the trade ecosystem – enabling convergence of both industry systems and applicable legal frameworks. The initiative will be rolled out through open and inclusive consultation with industry groups, companies and technical experts across ICC’s network in more than 130 countries – and in partnership with key international institutions and governments.

Reflecting this multistakeholder approach, the DSI has been operationalised thanks to seed-funding provided by the Government of Singapore and the Asian Development Bank.

ICC Secretary General, John W.H. Denton AO said:

“COVID-19 has clearly exposed the inherent fragility of global trade’s reliance on paper-based processes. A resilient rebuild from the crisis must be built on wholesale digitisation of global trade ecosystem – a process we believe the ICC Digital Standards Initiative is uniquely placed to drive. With many small businesses struggling to weather the effects of the pandemic, we see an absolute imperative to accelerate our work with partners under the DSI to ensure that digital technologies can truly democratise access to global markets.”

The initiative will be run out of ICC’s Singapore hub and the organisation has today announced, following an extensive search process, the appointment of Oswald Kuyler as the DSI’s Managing Director. Mr Kuyler joins ICC from BHP, the world’s largest diversified mining company, where he led a number of initiatives covering blockchain technologies, electronic documentation in trade finance, data analytics and process automation – most recently in the role of Head of Data Strategy.

Further hires will be made to expand the DSI’s Singapore-based team under Mr Kuyler in the coming months.

Speaking on the operationalisation of the initiative Gina Lim, Director of Financing Ecosystem Development at Enterprise Singapore said:

“The Covid-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of trade digitisation. The DSI will help to accelerate the digitalisation of global trade through the development of open digital trade standards. We are excited that this initiative has now commenced its global operations in Singapore under the leadership of ICC.”

Steven Beck, Head of Trade and Supply Chain Finance at the Asian Development Bank added:

“Digitisation is critical to strengthen the global trade and supply chains that create jobs, development and prosperity. ADB is delighted to partner with ICC and Government of Singapore to create the digital standards and protocols required to achieve this important goal.”

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For more information, please contact:

  • David Bischof
  • Deputy Director, ICC Banking Commission
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