Commonwealth Law Ministers encouraged to enable move to paperless trade

14 March 2024
A speaker gives a presentation at the Connectivity Agenda event at Commonwealth Law Ministers Meeting in Zanzibar

This March, Commonwealth Law Ministers were encouraged to enable the move to paperless trade by undertaking legal reform allowing digital trade documents to have the same force in law as paper-based documents.

At the Commonwealth Law Ministers Meeting in Zanzibar, Tanzania, held from 4-8 March, the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda (CCA) presented its Working Group on Legal Reform and Digitalisation to Ministers and senior legal officials. 

Economic case for paperless trade

Ministers and officials heard from the Connectivity Agenda’s Business-to-Business Cluster on the goals and objectives of the working group, as well as the economic case for moving to paperless trade.

The International Chamber of Commerce (UK) Secretary General and B2B Cluster Co-Chair Mr Chris Southworth elaborated on global moves toward paperless trade, including across several Commonwealth countries. COMESA Business Council CEO and B2B Cluster Co-Chair, Mr Teddy Soobramanien, commented on the regional perspective and the importance of moving to paperless trade across Africa.

Whilst the CCA Trade Specialist Mr Niels Strazdins noted that the Working Group and its outputs will play a crucial role in helping member states unlock up to US$1.2 trillion in additional Commonwealth trade by moving to paperless trade.

This number includes a potential US$90 billion in savings from the cost reductions resulting from the move to digital processes, and an additional US$1.1 trillion in additional trade resulting from greater access to finance, according to CCA research.

Group photo of speakers at a Connectivity Agenda event at the Commonwealth Law Ministers Meeting in Zanzibar

Removing legal barriers

The Working Group on Legal Reform and Digitalisation was established under a mandate by Commonwealth Trade Ministers in June 2023.

Its objective is to assist Commonwealth member states in transitioning to paperless trade, primarily through coordinating the removal of legal barriers preventing the digitalisation of commercial trade documents.

It aims to provide resources, advocacy, technical assistance, policy recommendations and information sharing to assist our member countries in navigating the legal reforms necessary for a smooth transition from paper-based to paperless trade.

The CCA encourages all Commonwealth member states to engage with the Working Group and help enable Commonwealth-wide legal reform to unlock this significant economic potential. For more information, please contact the CCA team at [email protected]

About the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda

Media contact

  • Rena Gashumba  Communications Adviser, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat
  • T: +44 7483 919 968  |  E-mail