International trade transactions still often rely on analogue processes and hard copy documentation, like bills of lading (BoLs) and letters of credit. In order to promote the adoption of paperless trade and facilitate trade (see guide on Trade Facilitation), there is a need to harmonize trade-related datasets and standards across economies. This includes having an inclusive, end-to-end digital pipeline from documents originating in one economy to the ability to accept and process imports in another. Further, there is a strong need to recognize the legal authority of digital trade documents, which is the aim of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law’s (UNCITRAL) Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records (MLETR).
Paperless trade could significantly reduce trade costs and add up to major savings for traders, especially MSMEs. Paperless trade can reduce complexity by eliminating the need for copies of the same document, as well as making electronic and immediate transmission of those same documents possible. All of this can reduce the time and effort required, thereby assisting all traders, especially MSMEs.
Created by UNCITRAL in 2017, the Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records (MLETR) is a key piece of paperless trade. The Model Law aims to enable the legal recognition of electronic transferable documents, that is, commercial documents and instruments, which incorporate the right to delivery of goods or payment of sums of money (e.g., letters of credit, bills of exchange, promissory notes, warehouse receipts). The MLETR is not only an important step towards trade digitalization, it is also necessary for the implementation of electronic single windows (see guide on Single Windows and National Portals).
The status is accessible at the UNCITRAL website.