The Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (Oasis Open) has brought together an alliance to come up with open-source product and trade data standards to facilitate digital trade attestations.

The OriginBX Oasis alliance, which counts among its members Accenture, Amazon, the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), the Global Trade Professionals Alliance (GTPA), the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), Inveniam, KYG.Trade, Origin Experts, Skuchain and Thomson Reuters, aims to create a single digital standard to enable counterparties within trade to quickly obtain information on the raw materials and components of manufactured goods within complex multi-tier supply chains.

“Providing and obtaining information about a good via email and attachments to determine and support HTS code, country of origin, free trade agreement, forced labour, traceability, sustainability and ESG attestations takes weeks and is archaic, redundant and costly,” says Todd Smith, founder and CEO of KYG.Trade and chair of the OriginBX Oasis governing board.

“The OriginBX Oasis open project mission is to develop a standardised message set for the digital exchange of product attributes that are necessary to then determine the trade attributes,” he tells GTR.

The alliance says that its work, once completed, will help to increase the utilisation of free trade agreements by reducing both the complexity and cost of complying with preferential and non-preferential country of origin determinations.

Since the UK left the EU, trade bodies have warned of the difficulties faced by businesses in determining whether or not the 47% of British exports that go to the bloc qualify under the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), particularly as many UK exporters are having to get to grips with the rules around origin for the first time.

“Customs declarations and rules of origin paperwork are two key areas where UK firms doing business in the EU will now face fresh obligations,” James Sibley, head of international affairs at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), told GTR earlier this year.

Meanwhile, as the new US administration works to assert its authority in enforcing customs duty rules, new analysis suggests that the country’s importers may be increasingly exposed to its longstanding False Claims Act (FCA), making them vulnerable to so-called “reverse false claims”, which means possible penalties for a failure to sufficiently pay taxes, duties or fees on goods.

“If a big box retailer or a small ecommerce merchant needs to figure out an HTS code, a country of origin, or whether a product qualifies for a free trade agreement, they first have to get their arms around the product itself. They have to understand how and where it was produced, the components that went into the production, the origin of those components, who had physical custody, a whole host of things,” says Smith.

In order to standardise all of this, OriginBX Oasis is putting together industry-specific working groups in sectors including apparel and footwear, retail, automotive, life sciences, energy, and chemical industries, that will identify the minimum data elements that would be necessary to be exchanged between trading partners and made available to counterparties in the supply chain, including trade lawyers and consultants, customs brokers and customs auditors.

“Everybody needs product attribute information,” says Smith. “They may think it’s really different, but it’s really not. It is just basic information that there is about a product. You may call it something different or you may need to receive it in a different format, but it is the same message. And if we could just agree on a standardisation for what we are calling the data elements that go into the message, it will be a lot easier to digitally exchange and ingest into other systems.”

The eventual aim will be the creation of a standardised messaging format that can be used on any system.

“We are developing an industry, government, and platform-agnostic message set that is intended to be ingested in and shared interoperably between legacy systems and emerging global trade blockchain platforms,” says Smith. “We are not creating the container, or bottle; we are creating the message that goes in the bottle.”

Over the next six to nine months, the group intends to start putting out the first standards, while the ICC, through its Digital Standards Initiative (DSI), will advocate for their adoption.

“We are actively working to accelerate the transition of supply and trade processes to digital, and these Oasis standards will be foundational,” Oswald Kuyler, managing director of the DSI, tells GTR. “We actively engage with various intergovernmental agencies, alliances and standard setting authorities on the adoption of standards to accelerate global trade and supply chain digitisation. This work perfectly fits these ambitions.”

The group now plans to bring in more representatives from various industries to participate technically in the open-source community that will be defining the OriginBX standards.