The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ (BTMU) and NTT Data Corporation have launched a blockchain proof of concept (PoC) aimed at strengthening trade ties between Japan and Singapore.

The work is in conjunction with Singapore’s National Trade Platform (NTP), the initiative designed to digitise the city state’s trading system.

The PoC will see MUFG and NTT Data (a Japanese IT company) attempt to integrate digital platforms between the two nations, using a prototype trade system currently being developed. The aim is to create digital solutions for systemic technical challenges in international trade, such as regulatory differences and documentation standardisation.

The pair claim it will “help lay the foundation for a regional digitalised trade and supply chain platform in Asia”. In this respect, it can be viewed as an extension of the Global Trade Connectivity Network (GTCN), a collaboration between Hong Kong and Singapore which looks to use blockchain to digitise bilateral trade.

Launched to much fanfare in Singapore in November, GTCN organisers are keen to extend it beyond two members, with the idea being to add corridors over time to develop a pan-national trading system on blockchain. GTR reported at the time that a collaboration with Japan was in the pipeline, and this is the first announcement to this effect.

MUFG – the parent company of BTMU – was one of the 13 financial institutions announced as the initial partners of the GTCN. The bank recently hired Shue Heng Yip as its head of digital transformation for Asia and Oceania. Yip was one of those who helped conceptualise the GTCN during his time with the Info-Communications Media Development Authority, a government agency in Singapore.

The GTCN is due to go live in some form (it’s as yet unclear what exactly it will do at the time of launch) at the start of 2019.

“This initiative is significant to MUFG on many levels. Not only is it an extension of our strategic objective of investing in digital innovation in support of our corporate clients and facilitating their cross-border trade flows in this region, this PoC will go towards creating a global digital ecosystem for trade finance,” says Motoi Mitsuishi, MUFG’s group head of transaction banking.

Ho Chee Pong, director general for Singapore Customs, adds: “The NTP is an open platform and this PoC with NTT Data is an important building block of our overall strategy to enable the flow of digital trade data with our trade partners globally.”