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Singapore, Australia successfully trial blockchain-greased customs system

Who knew that verifiable and digital documentation might move a little faster than paper?

Singapore and Australia have trialled – and quite liked – blockchain as a means of verifying the Certificates of Origin (COO) that document international trade.

COOs are documents that describe the origins of goods and are issued by governments or authorised agencies. Exporting nations issue COOs and importing nations rely on their accuracy so they can understand how to treat incoming goods.

Plenty of COOs are still issued on paper and therefore require manual processing, which is cumbersome and susceptible to fakery and other naughtiness.

Hence the interest from Singapore and Australia (and others) in something rather more modern.

Their joint effort sees QR codes added to digital COOs that can be machine read. The QR codes link to unique proofs registered on a blockchain.

Both nations have shown that this approach can work with their COO-processing applications and suggested that more of this would speed up trade and be a fine thing for all.

These are not novel outcomes. Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) users have had similar experiences for nigh-on half a century. And blockchain has a minor role in this test, serving solely to record the integrity of documents rather than getting anywhere near upending the global trade system.

But as both nations' border and customs authorities have a mission to grease the wheels of trade – and a certain pandemic has made that mission more desirable than ever – the success of the trial is welcome. ®

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