The UK’s Centre for Digital Trade and Innovation (C4DTI) has kicked off a new project to accelerate trade digitalisation in Thailand, as part of wider plans to strengthen and expand trade ties with Asia.

Funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office, the project will see C4DTI and its legal reform taskforce partner, the Centre for Applied Sustainable Transition Law, provide technical assistance to Thailand’s Electronic Transaction Development Agency (ETDA) to support the removal of legal barriers and the alignment of national law with the UN Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records (MLETR), with the eventual aim of enabling a cheaper, faster, simpler and more sustainable trading environment between the UK and Thailand.

“This partnership is another great example of the enormous gains to be had for the UK and other nations when we work together as a global community to modernise trade systems and remove all the unnecessary paper,” says Chris Southworth, secretary general of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) UK. “This project will help us align efforts across government and the private sector and accelerate digital transformation across the trade system.”

The UK-Thailand trading relationship is a relatively small one: the Department for International Trade’s statistics put their total bilateral trade in goods and services at £5.2bn in the four quarters to the end of Q2 2022, making Thailand the UK’s 43rd largest trading partner. However, the two countries recently committed to working together to increase these figures during their first Joint Economic and Trade Committee in June last year.

Thailand is also strategically important for the UK as it seeks to establish itself as a global leader in trade digitalisation. The Asian nation has unveiled a number of initiatives to cement its position as a key regional centre for trade and e-commerce, including the National Digital Trade Platform – a blockchain-based portal similar to Singapore’s Networked Trade Platform – and the establishment this week of a digital free trade hub in partnership with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.

With this initiative, the UK side will share knowledge and best practices on topics such as market preparedness and building the business case for trade digitalisation, as well as lessons learnt from the legislative reform work that is underway, which will give legal recognition in English law to digital versions of trade documents such as electronic bills of lading.

“The British Embassy Bangkok is thrilled to be partnering with ICC United Kingdom and ETDA Thailand to bring global trade into the 21st century, making it more efficient, accessible, affordable and environmentally friendly to trade internationally through digitalisation. This project will play an important role in enabling us to achieving that goal, placing the UK and Thailand at the forefront of global efforts to encourage inclusive economic growth through digital trade,” says Mark Gooding, the UK’s ambassador to Thailand.

This is the latest initiative to come out of the C4DTI since its launch in April last year. The centre is also currently working with Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority to test and connect digital trade systems between Singapore and the UK.