We.trade enables international trade transactions via blockchain
Rabobank’s we.trade is the world’s first blockchain solution for international trade transactions. It offers SMEs a one-stop solution.
International trade transactions can be problematic for SMEs and small wholesale clients. They require expertise that is beyond the reach of many businesses, and external funding has proved to be hard to come by. Research conducted among Dutch businesses by the World Economic Forum shows that, “access to trade funding” is the second-largest obstacle when it comes to export.
The we.trade digital platform facilitates international trade for SMEs. The first version of the platform will be launched mid-July, with a select group of businesses set to start using the platform. All Rabobank business clients will be able to access we.trade from the fall.
We.trade has been set up by a consortium of nine European banks, including Rabobank. It’s the first major trading platform to be based on blockchain technology. Thanks to blockchain, all parties involved in a trade transaction – the buyer, the buyer’s bank, the seller, the seller’s bank – are connected seamlessly. “All parties involved will be able to view the status of a transaction immediately,” explains Joost Volker, Lead Product Manager for Import/Export at Rabobank.
Businesses can use their regular Rabobank card and scanner to sign into we.trade. Once they have signed in, they can enter the details of their trade transaction and draw up a ‘smart contract’ with their trade partner, says Rabobank’s Blockchain Lead, Chris Huls. “You can stipulate the conditions for the transaction in the contract, following the ‘If This Then That’ principle. For example: if all parties have signed the transaction, it is considered completed and the goods in question can be delivered. Buyers and sellers can also come to other agreements, though, delaying payment until after the goods have been received, for instance.
We.trade makes trade transactions entirely transparent, which helps assure all parties that everyone involved in the trade is reliable. The high level of transparency makes it easier for the banks that participate in we.trade to provide trade funding. Rabobank provides two services to the users of the platform. The first is Bank Payment Undertaking, which involves the bank assuming the payment obligation from the buyer, assuring the seller he or she will receive the money owed. The other service, pre-finance, means that the bank pays the seller in advance, even though the product still has to be made or delivered.
Currently, we.trade can be used within 11 member states of the European Union (including Great Britain). Volker and Huls expect that the platform will be expanded to cover Eastern Europe and Asia next year. Ultimately, we.trade will become a global platform, to which transport firms, insurance companies, and customs authorities will also have access. Volker: “We want to continue to develop we.trade together with our customers, striving to create a product that is as simple and transparent as possible, and making the transaction process even smoother and faster.
We.trade is an extension to the many funding solutions that Rabobank has to offer for businesses engaged in trade. “Many of the traditional solutions are actually too complicated and too expensive for smaller businesses,” Volker concedes. He expects we.trade to boost the number of SMEs able to expand throughinternational trade. It’s an enormous step in the right direction, he believes: “The current system of international trade, based on paper trails and checks & balances, was invented by the Romans. It was due for an update.”
In fact, blockchain is simply a shared digital ledger, of which all parties in the ‘chain’ have a copy. None of the parties can independently delete or add entries to the ledger, which makes it virtually impossible to manipulate it. In principle, you can use blockchain for any type of transaction. This includes its most famous application, as the technology that forms the basis for cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, but you can also use a blockchain to manage documents, shares and energy consumption.
“The current system of international trade was invented by the Romans. It was due for an update.”