Business commerce platform Tradeshift has connected its standalone Chinese service to its global network to enable what it says is the first ever cross-border electronic invoicing solution for China.

Founded in 2010, Tradeshift offers a cloud-based platform that connects suppliers to the same solution, which handles invoicing, tax compliance, settlement and early payments, with a multi-bank network including HSBC, Santander, Citi, American Express and CreditEase.

However, while Tradeshift’s services can be used globally, regulatory issues in several jurisdictions mean that it can only offer compliant e-invoicing in certain countries. Although the Chinese government has begun to push for e-invoicing, Chinese companies are often unable to access existing foreign solutions, forcing their global partners to operate a separate China-only system or rely on paper.

“The biggest hurdles to including China in a global e-invoicing solution are related to connectivity, the Chinese firewall, accessibility of services, data segregation and China compliance,” a Tradeshift spokesperson tells GTR.

In 2016, the company set up a China-hosted platform through a joint venture with Chinese government-approved tax services provider Baiwang, which delivers billing, e-invoicing and procurement services to Chinese businesses, including the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), Agricultural Bank of China, Bank of China, Ping An Group, and China Railways.

This China-hosted service enabled companies based in China to produce e-invoices. However, Tradeshift users operating both within and outside China would have to maintain separate accounts for this China-hosted service and their global e-invoicing activities, the spokesperson says.

Tradeshift says it has now been able to “bridge” its Chinese platform with its global network, creating what it describes as a seamless Tradeshift Pay experience for companies conducting trade within and outside of China, although it did not give further details on how it has been able to achieve this.

“Global companies can now use the same account to connect and transact with trade partners in France and Brazil as they do in China, reducing friction and creating economic opportunity,” says Christophe Bodin, chief revenue officer at Tradeshift. “We’ve worked tirelessly to overcome the regulatory challenges of cross-border trade in order to deliver a truly global solution to our customers. We’re proud to take this big step forward in bringing our vision of connecting every company in the world to life.”

With this solution, Tradeshift says it can contribute to digitalising the more than US$530bn in global trade activity that passes through China each month, with the eventual aim of eliminating friction in cross-border transaction flows between the country and the rest of the world.