A joint initiative of the United Nations and the Organisation for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) will kick off a worldwide project to standardise electronic contracts and trading partnerships using XML.The ebXML Trading Partners Team intends to enable extensive supply chain information to be included in electronic business documents. The group will work to standardise the number of different XML specifications and complement other ebXML project teams working to provide the exchange of global business information based on XML. Specifically the global initiative will classify the technical boundaries of trading partner profiles and agreements (TPA). Klaus-Dieter Naujok, chairman of ebXML, said standardising on a specification for the electronic trading partner agreement is essential to widespread ecommerce. "TPAs capture critical information upon which organisations must agree in order for their applications and business processes to communicate. TPA will be a key element for interoperability among B2B server implementations." The news comes as a broad industry group headed up by Ariba, Microsoft and IBM announced an open standard for electronic marketplaces to allow businesses to describe themselves across all B2B platforms. The initiative, which will lead to a international directory of businesses trading on the internet, is also supported by American Express, Andersen Consulting, Commerce One, Fujitsu, Merrill Lynch, Nortel, NTT and Sun Microsystems amongst others.