Rules as data – the 21st century answer for trade facilitation?

How can technology move us towards a future where all businesses can participate in international trade? Craig Atkinson, an independent trade facilitation consultant, shares his views on how an “Internet of Rules” can modernise access to information.

Traditionally, trade facilitation reform has not been sensitive to the realities of firm size and small businesses have become increasingly reliant on access to information via the internet. Further research from UNCTAD indicates that small enterprises benefit most significantly from ‘soft infrastructure’ for cross-border management via information and communications technology (ICT). Given this paradigm, novel collaborations are moving forward between governments, lawyers, academics, businesses, ‘legal hackers’, technology communities, chambers of commerce, international organisations and standards bodies to express regulations in computational form so that anyone can automate their application.

Over existing networks, ‘rules as data’ can be published by authorities or private entities and utilised by point of sale, transportation/ports, national single window systems and other platforms. Ultimately, connectivity that arises helps entities to disrupt administrative and expertise barriers to trade. Rule sets expressed, exchanged and applied in this manner lead to the materialisation of an Internet of Rules for universal accessibility of the rules/data relevant to any transaction.

For importers, exporters and intermediaries, compliance with rules across goods codes and jurisdictions becomes based on agnostic commercial data. By expressing computational rules and publishing them online, required data elements found in trade documents and the results of calculations (based on the rules) can be returned to authorities at the consent of buyers and sellers. This would help people to fulfill disparate paper-based and ‘digital document’/paperless environment compliance requirements while allowing for controlled and auditable payments.

A transparent and predictable Internet of Rules will modernise the experience of accessing information and engaging in international trade. Businesses and consumers would be able to quickly determine the total cost of goods, including tariffs/taxes. Governments could generate revenue in real-time and transportation/performance issues could be more precisely diagnosed.

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(via Trade for Development News by EIF)

Any views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect those of the Alliance.