Australia and Singapore complete blockchain-based trial of cross-border trade docs

Australian Border Force said its work with the Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore and Singapore Customs demonstrates the blockchain tech's value as a framework to connect governments and businesses for more effective trade flow.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor
Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Australian Border Force (ABF), alongside two Singaporean authorities, has announced the completion of a trial that tested the interoperability of two digital verification systems based on blockchain tech.

Working with the Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA), Singapore Customs, and a handful of industry participants, including the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Australian Industry Group, ANZ Bank, DBS Bank, Standard Chartered, and Rio Tinto, the ABF said the group has concluded a blockchain trial to prove trade documents can be issued and verified digitally across two independent systems.

The trial was initiated as part of the Australia-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement to make cross-border trade simpler between the two countries. It was announced in November.

According to the ABF, the group successfully tested the interoperability of two digital verification systems -- the ABF's Intergovernmental Ledger (IGL) and IMDA's TradeTrust reference implementation.

Currently at the proof-of-concept stage, the IGL is a digital verification project developed by the ABF to facilitate cross-border trade and improve paperless trading, using certificates of origin (COO), as a first test case.

"The trial demonstrated Australia's capability in issuing high integrity digital trade documents that can be instantly authenticated, provenance traced, and digitally processed," the ABF said in a statement.

QR-codes embedded with unique proofs are inserted into digital COOs which the ABF said enabled 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," it added.

COOs, the ABF said, are usually issued on paper and businesses regularly wait for 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, it explained.

The ABF said the goal of the IGL platform was to progressively remove the need for paper documents and reduce cross-border transaction costs for Australian businesses. Both the TradeTrust reference implementation and the IGL use the TradeTrust framework as the key underlying tech to allow interoperability.

"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," the ABF explained.

ABF Commissioner Michael Outram said the results would contribute to improving cross-border processes for Australian trading.

"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," he said.

"Digital verification and verifiable documents show promise as a 'circuit-breaker' to disrupt persistent paper-based evidence required by authorities."

IMDA chief executive Lew Chuen Hong said the trial demonstrates TradeTrust's value as a framework to connect governments and businesses for more effective trade flow.

The federal government in February last year published the National Blockchain Roadmap, which is centred on opportunities across the economy that it believes could be seized and enabled by the use of blockchain technology.


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