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The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the global trading system’s continued reliance on physical documentation. One key roadblock in the transition to paperless trade is the lack of recognition in domestic legal systems of electronic transferable records (ETRs). As a policymaker, these are key steps that you can take to unlock the benefits of trade digitisation for your country.

Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records

A solution exists in the form of the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Records (MLETR).


MLETR aims to enable the use of ETRs both domestically and across borders, by recognising the legal validity of ETRs that are functionally equivalent to their paper-based counterparts.


MLETR was developed by Working Group IV of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, through an inclusive and deliberative process between 2011 and 2016.


For the Digital Standards Initiative, widespread adoption of MLETR holds the promise of increased efficiency, consistency and coherence in the modernization and harmonisation of legislation on paperless trade.

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Model Language

Elegant Abstract Background

ICC Guide to Legal Reform

Given the transversal nature of trade finance, reforming laws to enable paperless trade can appear daunting and complex.


This step-by-step guide – Creating A Modern Digital Trade Ecosystem: Practical guide to legal reform to enable electronic transferable records and optimise cross-border trade – leverages lessons learned by first-mover jurisdictions in reforming electronic transactions laws.


Economic analysis of the benefits of digitalisation

Reforming laws and harmonizing legal frameworks stands to generate USD trillions in time and cost savings for international trade.


The following reports, commissioned by Commonwealth Secretariat and ICC United Kingdom with Coriolis Technologies Ltd as independent research partner, set out the immense benefits that will accrue to jurisdictions that create an enabling legal environment for paperless trade by adopting or aligning to MLETR.

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Legislation adopting MLETR

Several jurisdictions have legislation adopting MLETR or are in the process of adoption.


Bahrain passed legislation in 2019, becoming the first jurisdiction to adopt the MLETR.


On 1 February 2021 the Parliament of Singapore passed the Electronic Transactions (Amendment) Bill adopting, with modifications, the MLETR.

Abu Dhabi Global Market

On 28 February 2021 Abu Dhabi Global Market announced the Electronic Transactions Regulations 2021 adopting, with modifications, the MLETR.


Belize repealed and replaced its Electronic Transactions Act in October 2021, adopting, with modifications, the MLETR.


The Republic of Kiribati passed the Electronic Transactions Bill in September 2021, adopting the MLETR.


On 20 December 2021 Paraguay passed Law No. 6822, adopting the MLETR.

Papua New Guinea 

On 23 February 2022 Papua New Guinea certified the new Electronic Transactions Act 2021, adopting the MLETR. 

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Bills under consideration

Several jurisdictions have bills actively under consideration or awaiting final assent, including Ghana, Mauritius, the United Kingdom, and Thailand.

Several jurisdictions are engaging in consultations with a view to creating enabling legal environments for paperless trade.

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Notable Developments 

UK Law Commission Consultation 

The UK Law Commission was tasked by UK Government to recommend reforms to enable legal recognition of trade documents such as bills of lading and bills of exchange. 
The Commission published a consultation paper on 30 April 2021 and its final report – with draft legislation – on 15 March 2022. 

G7 Digital and Technology Ministerial Declaration

G7 Digital and Technology Ministers agreed to a  Framework for G7 Collaboration on Electronic Transferable Records in April 2021 to “champion the work of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) and promote the adoption of legal frameworks compatible with the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records 2017”. The Framework was also endorsed by the Republic of Korea and Australia. In December 2021, the UK G7 Presidency issued a Roadmap to reform for electronic transferable records.

2022 G7 Digital Ministerial Declaration 

In May 2022 the G7 – under the German presidency – reaffirmed the importance of the Electronic Transferable Records agenda, and proposed complementary principles that are consistent with that work. 

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