Insight Report

ICC UK Creating a Modern Digital Trade Ecosystem

9 Nov 2021

Cutting the cost and complexity of trade; Reforming laws and harmonising legal frameworks


This report was commissioned by ICC United Kingdom in partnership with ICC France and Germany and the ICC Digital Standards Initiative to set out the economic case for harmonising legal frameworks and provide analysis on the preparedness of the UK market in relation to use of digital identification.

The findings:

  • The post Brexit and Covid export recovery has been more challenging for small companies:
    • The value of UK exports has not recovered to the pre-pandemic levels
    • The number of export shipments from UK ports recovered well from the pandemic up to November 2020 but has fallen back by more than a half since
    • Medium-sized exporters have fared relatively well over the last 12 months – their numbers, revenues and employment have all grown, but there are fewer microbusinesses exporting than 12 months ago – their revenues have fallen by 9.1% and employment by 0.4%
  • Brexit and Covid have increased cost and caused greater complexity for exporters – especially SMEs.
  • Brexit paperwork has increased the amount of time taken crossing borders by an estimated 7% but time savings associated with border crossing and paperwork could be reduced by nearly 81% through digitalisation.
  • Aligning with MLETR could deliver £250 billion in extra trade by 2026.
  • When legal reforms come into force in 2022, the UK stands to reduce trade transaction costs by approximately 75%.
  • More work is needed to prepare industry to capitalize on the benefits of a fully digitalised trade ecosystem – only 4% UK companies use Legal Entity Identification [LEI] despite it being a building block for successful future trade.
  • Greater incentives are required to encourage more SMEs to use LEIs and scale up the existing system.
  • The UK is not in the top five countries for sustainable trade in any positive SDG product but is in the top five for two negative SDG products.
  • UK trade associated with positive SDGs is nearly 10% lower than its trade associated with negative SDGs
  • Digitalising the trade ecosystem offers the potential to track products through Bills of Lading so the scope for linking ESG and digital goals offers huge possibilities.

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