Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda champions paperless trade at UNESCAP Paperless Trade Week

14 June 2024
digital trade

Promoting the move to paperless trade, the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda together with officials from Commonwealth member countries and international organisations held a side event during the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific’s (UNESCAP) Paperless Trade Week in Bangkok, Thailand from 3-7 June.

Joined by officials from the United Kingdom, Papua New Guinea, and Kiribati, the session discussed the transition to paperless trade across the Commonwealth and featured expert and country-level perspectives and reflections on national experiences and the global state of the digital transformation of trade.

These three countries have been pioneers in making the transition to paperless trade amongst Commonwealth member countries in implementing legislative reform, most recently with the UK’s Electronic Trade Documents Act coming into force in September 2023.

Alongside Commonwealth member countries, officials from UNESCAP and the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) spoke during the session about global progress in the paperless trade transition and the importance of countries taking this important step to support an enabling environment for digital trade.

Niels Strazdins, Trade Specialist at Commonwealth Secretariat's Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda informed participants of the work of the Commonwealth in supporting its member states in making the transition to paperless trade, primarily through the Commonwealth’s Working Group on Legal Reform and Digitalisation. The Working Group was mandated by Commonwealth Trade Ministers in 2023 and is advancing the development of a suite of tools and resources to assist Commonwealth member states in making the paperless trade transition.

“Both Papua New Guinea and Kiribati are two excellent examples of small island developing states (SIDS) that have been first movers in the paperless trade transition and should inspire other SIDS and developing countries across the Commonwealth to pursue regulatory reform to enable this transition,” said Mr Strazdins.

Practical examples of the commercial potential unlocked by the paperless trade transition were provided by Zak Lawton, First Secretary Digital and Head of Investment at the British Embassy Bangkok, who spoke on the UK – South East Asia Trade Digitalisation Pilots delivering digitalised supply chain routes between the UK, Singapore and Thailand.

UNCITRAL’s Athita Komindr, Head, Regional Centre for Asia and the Pacific, provided a global perspective on the paperless trade transition, particularly regarding uptake of UNCITRAL’s Model Law on Electronic Transferrable Records (MLETR).


Commonwealth country experiences were shared by Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Kiribati. Both countries adopted their respective Electronic Transactions Acts in 2021, providing comprehensive framework for electronic transactions, contracts in electronic form, and electronic signatures.

More details on the Secretariat’s Working Group on Legal Reform and Digitalisation and its support for Commonwealth member states is available by contacting the Connectivity Agenda team at [email protected].

About the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda