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Australia and Singapore complete blockchain trial of cross-border trade

The countries are hoping to remove the need for paper documents and reduce transaction costs

Australia and Singapore have complete a blockchain trial to prove trade documents can be issued and verified digitally across two independent systems, removing the need for paper documents and reducing cross-border transaction costs.

The trial was carried out as part of the Australia-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement to make cross-border trade simpler between the two countries, and involved the Australian Border Force (ABF), the Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA) and Singapore Customs. It successfully tested the interoperability of two digital verification systems, the ABF’s Intergovernmental Ledger (IGL) and IMDA’s TradeTrust reference implementation.

The authorities involved said that by using this blockchain-based, decentralised approach, transactions can become “more cost effective and offers scalability without the need for expensive data exchange infrastructure, lowering barriers to the adoption of paperless cross-border trade”.

They added that it showed 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), allowing for “immediate verification for authenticity and integrity of the document when scanned or machine-read”.

COO’s are usually issued on paper and businesses regularly wait days to receive a hard-copy document via courier before dispatching to multiple parties, and paper trade documents are generally required by authorities to prove authenticity and integrity.

“ABF is proud to pioneer cutting-edge digital verification projects in Australia. 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. “Digital verification and verifiable documents show promise as a ‘circuit-breaker’ to disrupt persistent paper-based evidence required by authorities.”

Other participants included in the trial included the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Australian Industry Group, ANZ Bank, DBS Bank, Standard Chartered and Rio Tinto.

In July, the Australian government invested over $5.6 million (£3 million) in two companies through its Blockchain Pilot Grants programme to investigate the capacity of blockchain to enhance the productivity and competitiveness of the country’s minerals and food and beverage sectors. One company was going to investigate how this technology can be used to create a digital certification for critical minerals while the other was going to research how to implement the blockchain to automate key reporting processes.

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