MSME Blog

Understanding Trade Finance Digitization & Compliance

New virus fights, inflation rates hike, near-shoring and friend-shoring make life a strike. Global trade flow is disrupted, geopolitics persist, and uncertainties thrive. The WTO anticipates that global trade growth will be positive but at a significantly slower pace, despite the fact that there is widespread agreement that this uncertainty will persist for the majority of 2023 and beyond.

Trade finance is essential in this trillion-dollar business, as it facilitates funds transfer between buyers and sellers in international trade. Yet, the central ecosystem, which consists of importers, exporters, and lenders, is convoluted due to the number of participants in any given trade chain. Not everyone adapts to new circumstances or acts in unison. All parties involved need to carefully monitor some of the most crucial areas that will ultimately determine the fate of a thriving international trade environment.

Battling the Giants: How Inflation & Digital Assets Affect the Global Economy

The world economy, interest rates, digital assets and inflation are issues that cannot be ignored. While economists disagree on the economy’s future direction, the World Bank has predicted that rising interest rates will inevitably lead to a second worldwide recession in three years.

Even though there was a more optimistic tone, we still can’t rule out the possibility that ambiguity poses a risk. The recent tightening of Fed policy will have a significant impact on the economy; the IMF now predicts that worldwide inflation will decrease from 8.8 percent in 2022 to 6.6 percent in 2023 and 4.3 percent in 2024 but will not return to its level of 3.5 percent unless central banks take aggressive action.

We must avoid the error of believing the existence of ‚Äútransitory inflation,” stated Mohamed El-Erian, president of Queens’ College Cambridge. El-Erian argued that it is preferable to remain neutral and refrain from making inflation predictions rather than to predict that inflation will decrease. This caution is warranted largely because the inflation-related factors in this situation cannot be managed directly by central banks.

First, the impact of Russia’s action in Ukraine and subsequent attempts to alter that action has undeniably contributed to inflation this time. Second, when it lifted its travel restrictions, China’s attempts to restore both economically and politically from its long-lasting zero-Covid endeavors were offered a turbo-boost.

Before China’s U-turn on its Covid policy, the question was whether its slowing economy would hurt global trade. Now, the concern is whether or not the country’s factories can keep up with rising demand as workers take sick days. Although China’s PMI has been falling since 2022, the consequences of its opening on worldwide inflation are likely to be substantial.

This convergence of circumstances indicates that trade, rather than excessive demand, is driving inflation. There is a threat to trade finance since volumes have not expanded at the same rate as values.

From Paper to Pixels: The Journey of Trade Finance Digitization

Paper and manual methods are still widely used in the trade finance sector. Yet, for the full benefits of blockchain to be realized, the entire network must embrace trade finance digitization. This comprises government organizations, customs officials, and independent certifying firms. In light of the demise of Marco Polo and TradeLens, it is clear how difficult it may be for significant firms and the sector to work together.

Electronic bills of lading have the potential to facilitate international trade and save businesses vast sums of money. Nonetheless, just a fraction of BLs is now digital, and resistance to change remains widespread. While regulation changes are essential, momentum could be sparked by the United Kingdom’s approval and official recognition of digital files in 2023.

Breaking the Cycle: Empowering SMEs to Overcome Orphaned Status

As a result of banks’ hostility toward the trade finance industry (including a few that are scaling back transactions in primary commodities trade finance) and a series of fraud controversies among trading companies (especially in Dubai and Singapore), smaller traders have had a more difficult time gaining access to that all-important liquidity.

There have been doubts raised in the aftermath of the latest Trafigura nickel deal fraud regarding the magnitude of the facilities granted to large trading firms, which may be tapped by or further lent to minor traders due to the latter’s absence of direct facilities.

SMEs face challenges, including rising interest rates and higher transactional fixed costs (such as trade finance compliance, CMA, insurance, etc.) while attempting to wrap strict security for lenders. SMBs, especially those in developing economies, are finding it harder to access working capital facilities because of the increasing Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) regulations and reporting criteria.

Learn How Regulation and Compliance Driving Sustainability Efforts

Regulation and compliance based on sustainability will pose a severe threat to international commerce. There is a wealth of literature on sustainability and the impending “tipping point” at which, in the words of the United Nations, climate change will be irreversible.

Also Read: MSMEs- Driving Growth With Digital Transformation

As distressing as this pattern is, little else can be said about it. The drives for 2023 at the geopolitical and political level will be to guarantee that climate change and zero emissions targets are adhered to and ensure that climate change rules globally do not become a cause of either geopolitical or trade conflicts.

The legal frameworks affecting international commerce and trade financing will significantly modify in 2023. European Union (EU) Taxonomy reporting requirements and the (SFDR) European Sustainable Finance Disclosure Reporting standards now force businesses to declare their financial allocations to areas of the Taxonomy and the related financial risk.

The reporting frameworks have recently changed dramatically, reflecting the growing significance of ESG factors. AML-KYC compliance may need to be expanded to include ESG compliance. Similarly, financial institutions should assess the climate risk exposure in their portfolios and consider how the pricing mechanisms might be used to lessen that risk and aid in managing the transition.

Supply chains may be subject to greater scrutiny, fewer SMEs may be able to gain access to trade finance as a result, and ultimately, trade may be restricted between “compliant” and “non-compliant” countries. The dust will settle in 2023, at which point financial institutions can evaluate what trade-related data they will be required to provide starting in 2024.
This year, the “Capital at Risk” concept will extend beyond regulatory compliance and into environmental considerations; it’s yet another seismic change whose significance must not be understated.

The Takeaway

“Events” are a concern because we overestimate their impact, and strategic difficulties are precisely that because we do not consistently apply an accurate probability assessment to them. The only way to start transforming some unknown variables into known ones is to plan for uncertainty.

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