The Universal Trade Network (UTN) is a new industry initiative that is creating a suite of open technology standards and protocols to enable seamless interoperability between the digital systems, applications, and networks that power global trade. The UTN is governed by the Universal Trade Network Organisation (UTNO), a non-profit organisation that serves as an open, all-inclusive forum for the industry, and oversees the creation and maintenance of the standards and protocols that make up the UTN. In practice, the UTNO serves a similar function to the World Wide Web Consortium or IETF, the industry bodies that maintain the standards and protocols that connect the World Wide Web.
Today’s trade systems are disconnected, and many are still entirely paper-based. This continues to impose a tremendous amount of friction for all parties involved. It also hampers the ability of all businesses – in particular, SMEs – to expand globally. As a result, the industry is now in search of applications, networks, and platforms that would enable a more connected trade ecosystem. We have already seen a dramatic rise in the number of consortia and industry initiatives focused on creating new connections between the many participants in global trade.
Despite a substantial increase in efforts aimed at overcoming these challenges, there is a fundamental problem with the industry’s current approach. That is, if each initiative builds its network and these networks can’t connect, we will be left with the very same problem we spent a lot of time and money to solve. This then presents us with another challenge: disparate business networks need to become interoperable with one another in order to exchange data reliably, securely, and effortlessly.
The UTN will play a critical role in ensuring the industry can overcome the interoperability challenge, by defining the open standards and protocols that these systems and the software running on them can leverage to communicate with one another across different networks and service providers.
The immediate, core focus of the UTN will be to create and promote the adoption of standards and protocols that allow for interoperability between different DLT-powered trade platforms and facilitate connectivity between these trade platforms and non-DLT networks.
The UTN is a fully inclusive industry initiative which will include logistics companies, insurance providers, corporates, technology and Finch firms and B2B networks, with the goal of being also inclusive for other distributed ledger networks to join and for all parties involved in global trade to adopt the standards.