Policy action and coordination among key interested parties are necessary to fully realise the potential of blockchain technology to transform international trade, according to World Trade Organization (WTO) Deputy Director-General Yi Xiaozhun.

He was announcing the launch of a new publication on blockchain by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), Trade Finance Global (TFG) and the WTO.

Blockchain & DLT in Trade: A Reality Check can be found at www.wto.org.

Deepesh Patel of the TFG said: “While international trade in goods has seen little innovation since the invention of the container in the 50s, the tedious, labour- and paper-intensive processes required to ship around the world could well become a story of the past thanks to the advent of new technologies, particularly distributed ledger technology (DLT) — colloquially termed blockchain.”

The report notes that many in the industry saw the advent of blockchain as an opportunity to tackle some of the inefficiencies associated with trade financing.

Several DLT initiatives have sprung up to help connect various key stakeholders and improve trade finance and supply chain finance processes.

While many of the projects that have made the headlines are consortia of banks teaming up to help solve common problems, the report also focuses on the increasing number of non-consortia initiatives involved including we.trade, eTradeConnect and the Marco Polo Network.

Based on a survey of more than 200 actors in the field, the WTO/ICC)/TFG publication discusses the key challenges that companies involved in blockchain trade-related projects are facing and discusses actions that may need to be taken to allow the technology to truly transform international trade.

It also provides an estimate of the stages of maturity of the various projects under consideration (most trade-related blockchain initiatives are between the pilot and early stages of production).

Last reviewed 6 December 2019