The French legislature has passed a law allowing digital versions of widely used trade documents, such as bills of lading, marking a milestone in global efforts to make trade paperless.

The June 5 vote by lawmakers on the eve of a snap parliamentary election makes France one of the largest economies to enact legislation based on the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records (MLETR).

The provisions were contained in a reform package introduced by President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party, designed to boost the competitiveness of France as a global financial sector.

Alexandre Holroyd, the lawmaker who shepherded the bill through the National Assembly and Senate, told GTR in April that the law includes articles defining trade records and detailing how they can be used, as well as articles defining an electronic transferable record and stating that they can be used interchangeably with paper equivalents.

A further section is dedicated to the changes to other aspects of French law needed to accommodate the reforms, although no further new legislation will be required.

The legislation also requires that a compliant digital document must be created using a “reliable” system.

In addition to bills of lading, the law will also enable the use of digital versions of documents such as promissory notes and bills of exchange.

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in France says the move has allowed the country “to join the club of pioneering countries in the digitalising of international trade financing” and that a new phase of adopting digital trade practices is now beginning.

In addition to MLETR, the law is also strongly influenced by a government-commissioned report produced last year by advocacy group Paris Europlace, which consulted widely across the financial services, business and logistics sectors.

Philippe Henry, a co-author of the report, says: This law’s adoption energises our ongoing efforts, proving that united public and private sectors can drive reform in this country.”

A forthcoming decree, which must be published within nine months of the law’s passing, will define the criteria for what constitutes a “reliable system”, a question that has been the focus of industry efforts to prevent regulatory fragmentation slowing the adoption of digital trade documents.

Henry says the decree will also include “reliable methods for title identification, holder verification, exclusive control, and title history tracking”.

He adds that the Paris Europlace task force will also “accelerate” discussions with the European Commission on potential trade services regulation at an EU level, following recent EU Parliament elections.

France joins Abu Dhabi Global Market, Bahrain, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Singapore and the UK among jurisdictions that have already adopted MLETR-compliant legislation, according to a tracker maintained by the ICC.

Germany and the US already have laws largely aligned with MLETR.