18 August 2021 – Australian Border Force (ABF), the Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA), and Singapore Customs, along with industry participants, have concluded a blockchain trial to prove trade documents can be issued and verified digitally across two independent systems, reducing cross-border transaction costs.
The blockchain trial was initiated as part of the Singapore - Australia Digital Economy Agreement to make cross-border trade simpler between the two countries. The trial successfully tested the interoperability of two digital verification systems – the ABF’s Intergovernmental Ledger (IGL) and IMDA’s TradeTrust reference implementation.
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.
A key 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.
ABF Commissioner Michael Outram said he was pleased with the positive results which will contribute to improving cross-border processes for Australian trading community.
“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.
“Digital verification and verifiable documents show promise as a ‘circuit-breaker’ to disrupt persistent paper-based evidence required by authorities,” Commissioner Outram said.
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.
Mr 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.
Mr Ho Chee Pong, Director-General, Singapore Customs said the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated trade digitalisation, and demonstrated the importance of cross-border paperless trade.
“Singapore Customs appreciates the close collaboration with Australia in this aspect, and looks forward to further collaboration in promoting paperless trade,” Mr Ho added.
In 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.
JOINTLY ISSUED BY AUSTRALIAN BORDER FORCE, THE INFOCOMMUNICATIONS MEDIA DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY (IMDA), AND SINGAPORE CUSTOMS
The IGL is a digital verification project developed by the ABF to facilitate cross-border trade and improve paperless trading, using COOs as a first test case. The IGL digital verification platform, currently at proof-of-concept stage, uses emerging technology – blockchain and verifiable credentials – and the TradeTrust framework.
About Australian Border Force
Australian Border Force (ABF) is Australia's frontline border law enforcement agency and customs service.
Our mission is to protect Australia's border and enable legitimate travel and trade. Our vision is to be a global leader in border law enforcement and trusted partner that helps build a safe, secure and prosperous Australia.
We aim to facilitate the movement of people and goods across the border. We work closely with other agencies to share knowledge, expertise and intelligence in order to detect, deter and prosecute those who attempt to do us harm at the border. The work we do contributes to safeguarding Australia's national security.
About Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA)
The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) leads Singapore’s digital transformation with infocomm media. To do this, IMDA will develop a dynamic digital economy and a cohesive digital society, driven by an exceptional infocomm media (ICM) ecosystem – by developing talent, strengthening business capabilities, and enhancing Singapore's ICM infrastructure. IMDA also regulates the telecommunications and media sectors to safeguard consumer interests while fostering a pro-business environment, and enhances Singapore’s data protection regime through the Personal Data Protection Commission. For more news and information, visit www.imda.gov.sg or follow IMDA on Facebook IMDAsg and Twitter @IMDAsg.
About Singapore Customs
Singapore Customs – a department under the Ministry of Finance – is the lead agency for trade facilitation and revenue enforcement.
We facilitate Singapore’s external trade, through collaboration with government agencies and businesses, robust regulations and effective enforcement.
Our vision is to be a leading Customs that advances Singapore’s economy by protecting revenue, and making trade easy, fair and secure.
For media clarifications, please contact:
Australian Border Force
+61 (02) 6264 2211
Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore
(Mr) Christopher Koh
Senior Manager, Communications and Marketing, IMDA
Tel: (65) 9144 1995
(Mr) Tan Yong Kiang
Head Corporate Communications
Tel: (65) 63552956
(Ms) Isabel Chia
Senior Corporate Communications Officer