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Taking a Glimpse Through the Single Trade Window: What Can The UK Unified Trade Portal Achieve?

The UK is getting ready to implement a Single Trade Window - STW. This blog explores the state of play, the five building blocks required to make it successful, and how businesses can benefit.

UK Single Trade Window - What benefits?
UK Single Trade Window - What benefits?

UK borders require upgrading. It must meet WTO global governance requirements and business expectations - it must be technologically enabled, leveraging the tech innovations available, including AI.


And the UK is getting ready to do just that.


According to the government's 2025 Border Strategy, "the most effective border in the world" will be created using a range of technologies, including those utilised in the Ecosystem of Trust projects.


To get started, a new law came into force last month, allowing the government to spend money creating a single trade window. The Single Trade Window (Preparation) Regulations 2023 became effective on May 8, 2023. The law says this trade window allows traders to submit all necessary information for importing, exporting, or transporting goods through one entry point. So let’s explore what it is all about.


What is a Single Trade Window?


Single Trade Windows make it easier to trade connections with the border. According to the World Customs Organisation (WCO), a single window is "a facility that allows parties involved in trade and transport to lodge standardised information and documents with a single entry point to fulfil all import, export, and transit-related regulatory requirements".


Is the Single Trade Window a new idea?


No! The 2025 UK Border Strategy, released by the Cabinet Office in 2020, proposes the Single Trade Window (STW) as a technology concept. This idea is based on the recommendations and guidelines provided by the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT).


These Standards set the rules to enhance the efficient exchange of information and thus support global trade growth by creating a single data entry point for the government for all customs and border-related activities.


Internationally, the STW idea has already been embraced by countries like New Zealand, Canada, Switzerland, and the United States. In addition, many EU Member States also implement a Single Window – and even the EU is working on an interface to bring all these national Single Windows together.


The UK Government has committed £180 million to build a UK Single Trade Window, which will reduce the cost of trade by streamlining trader interactions with border agencies.


At its essence, a Single Trade Window provides a single input point for border data, reducing redundancy for users. The World Customs Organisation (WCO) outlines several important concepts and characteristics related to statistics, including:


What is the key benefit of the Single Trade Window, in a nutshell?


Importers, Exporters, and Customs Agents can provide all necessary border data consistently via the Single Trade Window. This would entail submitting to border officials only once through a single gateway.


In order for border authorities and agencies to obtain the information they require, the Single Trade Window places the responsibility on the government to promote data sharing.


As a result, there is no longer a requirement for the user to submit the same data via several portals to various border authorities or organisations.

Currently, transferring products over the UK border involves a number of different government procedures. Each system receives data submissions from traders and middlemen, some of which is duplicate data.


For importers and exporters, this adds complication and expense.


A UK Single Trade Window will give businesses and intermediaries a single data gateway into which they may submit data to the government once. Areas of devolved competence will also be taken into consideration when implementing the UK Single Trade Window.


UK Importers, exporters, and customs agents will experience less administrative work by centralising data entry, eliminating the need for redundant data entry. Additionally, this will enable improved data exchange between the government departments.


In the end, the hope is that the UK Single Trade Window will result in lower import and export costs for companies.


Have You Met The New CHIEG In Town?


The UK government introduced the Check How to Import and Export Goods (CHIEG) service in 2021 as a precursor to the STW. It provides tailored advice on subjects like applicable duties and origin rules and information on obtaining any required certification and where to submit them, both at the domestic and destination border. This improves the information provided by the UK Trade Tariff.


Customs Declarations: Making Low-Cost Self-Declaration a Reality


The government is investigating the possibility of traders or intermediaries directly self-declaring border data into the STW.


Currently, e-customs software connected to one or more Community Service Provider (CSP) badges provides the interface that communicates with the HMRC CDS or CHIEF platform, and customs brokers fill out the data fields.


Both the CSP badges and the e-customs software are subscription-based, with particular CSP badges granting access to ports, airports, and customs warehousing inventory systems that are non-inventory and inventory-linked.


Additional port fees might be charged to the customs broker via the CSP when the cargo is removed from the inventory records.


How the STW can be used without incurring operational user fees is still in the air, but without a solution, the increased "filing cost" is a blocker to unlocking business growth.


Using a Single Window Requires Customs Knowledge And Awareness


The optimal use of the UK Single Trade Window and, subsequently, the submission of customs declarations requires professional training and in-depth familiarity with codified rules as well as the legislation that governs their application, particularly about customs valuation, tariff classification, rules of origin, and customs procedures, many of which are harmonised among members of the World Customs Organisation and World Trade Organisation. Breaking these rules could result in fines and the seizure of goods.


As you know, you can study all of this with us at Customs Manager Ltd, and we invite you to check out our pieces of training at www.customsmanager.org/events.


In addition, there are several "building blogs" that importers and exporters as well as customs agents need to prepare for to gain maximum benefit from the UK Single Window.


Building Block 1: The Ecosystem of Trust


Trade digitalisation is predicted to increase UK GDP by up to 1% (£25 billion). The Ecosystem of Trust concept is part of the Single Window approach. To reap the benefits from the UK Single Window means joining such an "ecosystem". Such an Ecosystem of Trust can reduce border checks, supporting documents, and merchant delays.


It aims to integrate the use of technology to promote efficient and secure border systems through the adoption of collaboration between the public and private sectors and between various types of new technology (such as Modern auditing and stockpiling programmes, blockchain encryption, supply chain and port technologies).


This is how it could work:


The UK's Port community systems receive a large about of data currently with government services to process and relay customs clearance information to the transporter. These IT systems can take in data from commercial invoices, packing lists, health certificates, and so on. It should then be able to distribute this as a PDF file or XML or JSON data on an open distributed ledger architecture. As such, this information can be fed into Port Health Authorities and the UK Single Trading Window through an API.


Going further, in addition, the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Robotic Process Automation, Distributed Ledger Technology, and Smart Contracts will play a role in data processing, too, which will impact this ecosystem by connecting all these data points securely in one "ecosystem of trust", the UK government can acquire the knowledge it needs to reduce inspections and streamline importer and exporter data entry - eventually leading to no customs declaration having to be filed at all (hope!).


This integration can reduce business red tape and help the government enforce border restrictions. This would eliminate trade barriers and make commerce easier for all enterprises. Overall, it must be a system that relieves the exporter of all of these responsibilities: a system that would allow a small- or medium-sized exporter to avoid having to invest in a large filing infrastructure to support exports or imports.


Building Block 2: The right approach to Data


Importers and exporters as well as customs agents may worry about data access, data breaches and confidentiality. At the same time, if data can be shared seamlessly through trusted corridors, then there is little need for a separate customs declaration to be lodged. Furthermore, such data must be immutable to establish trust. There needs to be control over who may access updated data.


Together with technologies, the right approach to data will help the government identify and communicate import risk, reducing the number of inspections it must perform, especially on sanitary and phytosanitary goods, which require more thorough inspections than most standard goods.


Building Block 3: Electronic Seals


Electronic sealing may be necessary in this situation to track goods. In general, an electronic seal is a piece of data that is added to an electronic document or other data to guarantee data integrity and origin; as such, it may also be connected to the movement of products. A "tamper alert" is provided to the controlling system in cases where control systems receive movement data from digital seals through satellite navigation. If the electronic seal is removed. Using such technology, authorities would be able to keep an eye on unlawful modifications to cargo channels that border agents have approved. It is hoped that such a system will be able to monitor any deviance from a permitted path as well as any in-transit flows, allowing companies and authorities to determine whether the shipment is being held up or experiencing delays along the way. As a result, the relevant authority or entity can respond quickly as necessary.


Building Block 4: Trusted Trader


HMRC seizes certain containers, increasing costs to businesses. They may stay in the ports for 5–15 days afterwards. The importer doesn't know when supplies will arrive. If you trust the trader, don't stop shipments. Despite the mistrust, you can intercept the merchant. If you trust most traders, you can drop checks from 20% to 5%. 15% cut.


Therefore, importers and exporters will have the option to apply for the designation of "Trusted Trader," and following the fulfilment of the compliance requirements, trusted traders as said to be granted access to submit data using electronic documents like commercial invoices and bills of lading just once.


But there is more:


Building Block 5: Electronic Trade Documents Only!


The government has outlined their role in fostering innovation by ensuring that standards, legislation, and policy are in sync, for example, through the upcoming Electronic Trade Documents Bill. With the passage of this legislation, electronic versions of trade documents like bills of exchange, bills of lading, promissory notes, and marine insurance documents will be accepted. Security and visibility of all trade documentation by all players reduce risk, lowering finance, insurance, and logistical expenses.


Conclusion


The UK Government has committed £180 million to build a Single Trade Window (STW), which will reduce the cost of trade by streamlining trader interactions with border agencies. It is based on UN/CEFACT recommendations and guidelines. The Single Trade Window provides a single input point for border data, reducing redundancy for users and enabling improved data exchange between government departments. This may include the possibility for traders or intermediaries directly self-declaring border data into the STW. To operate it effectively, the STW requires professional training and in-depth familiarity with codified rules and legislation to gain maximum benefit.


Several building blocks need to be set up for importers to leverage the opportunities:


First, making the STW work requires an "Ecosystem of Trust", which aims to connect all data points securely to reduce inspections and streamline importer and exporter data entry. Next, electronic sealing is necessary to track goods and ensure data integrity and origin. Then, businesses need to become "Trusted traders" to be allowed to submit data using electronic documents, speeding up customs clearance further.


For importers and exporters, the STW is likely to ease trading once it is made available and businesses can access all the benefits. This will benefit the economy in several ways, such as reducing time wasted on unnecessary tasks and increasing productivity and transparency in the customs system. Combining all five building blogs, you may eventually end up with shipments that do not require inspections at the border. Audits and assessments might be conducted away from the border by the industry itself. The trading process has been streamlined and accelerated.


That is a future to look forward to. Will it happen?


If you require any further assistance, contact us at info@customsmanager.org

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