SINGAPORE: Digitising trade documentation and processes will help raise productivity, boost competitiveness and create new opportunities, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Wednesday (Sep 26) at the unveiling of the new Networked Trade Platform (NTP).
Currently, a single trade can involve over 25 parties, generating 30 to 40 documents, as well as requiring 60 to 70 per cent of information to be manually re-entered at least once.
"If we can stitch the disparate standalone systems, or digital islands, together, and bridge the government agencies and business community, the potential value to the economy is significant and transformational," said Mr Heng.
The NTP, which was developed by Singapore Customs and the Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech), aims to do that as it functions as a single window for all customs and trade-related services.
Companies can tap on a range of trade-related value-added services (VAS), such as cargo freight booking, cargo insurance, customs declarations and payment reconciliation.
This will allow them to arrange shipments easily, improve cash flow, and better manage trade compliance on one single platform.
Mr Heng added that integrating the business-to-business, and business-to-government transactions will help to facilitate a Singapore that is connected globally.
"Going forward, we must work towards greater connectivity, especially with our trading partners around the world.
"Our vision is for this to be a truly global network, to enable the efficient flow of goods and services, linked to a secure flow of financing, facilitated by a swift exchange of data, so that all parties, including regulatory and customs authorities, can work together to facilitate trade," he said.
On this front, several initiatives are underway. For instance, Singapore Customs is in discussions to link up the NTP to China's single window system to facilitate trade declarations and smoothen trade flow for businesses.
Talks are also underway with the Customs Administration of the Netherlands to explore ways to leverage technology to achieve greater connectivity in trade regulatory processes.
NTP is also collaborating with MUFG Bank and NTT Data Corporation to use blockchain technology to facilitate secure and efficient cross-border trade data flows.
To date, close to 800 companies from various industries have signed up as NTP users, with four government services on certification and verification of goods available.
Three more services including vessel registration will be rolled out in the coming months.