Tradelink moving closer towards EDI
IN 1988 Hong Kong's leading banks, shipping terminals and a select group of private companies and trade organisations began working on a system that would affect every trade shipment entering and leaving Hong Kong.
As this year ticks away, the Tradelink consortium is putting the finishing touches to the electronic data interchange (EDI) system that it says will keep Hong Kong at the forefront of international trade.
The system, called Community Electronic Trading Service (CETS), will operate with a universal EDI language developed by the United Nations specifically for electronic trading. It allows computer-to-computer exchanges, in this case between importers, exporters and the Government.
Tradelink's system, which gained substantial Government backing in 1992, will allow the electronic transfer of trade declarations, primarily export licences, manifest information and dutiable commodity documentation.
Tradelink has been guaranteed a seven-year exclusive contract, approved by the Joint Liaison Group (JLG), to perform the service once the system is up and running.
The consortium includes: Hongkong Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, Hong Kong's three shipping terminals, Hongkong Telecom, the Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce, China Resources, Swire Pacific and the Hong Kong Association of Freight Forwarding Agents. The Government owns 30 per cent of Tradelink.
But Griff Griffith, Tradelink's manager of business strategies and services, calls the system a necessity for other reasons.
''Because EDI is becoming the international way to do business, it is self-defence to put this system in place. Customers in the West are now used to doing business through EDI. They're coming to expect it,'' he said.
The schedule for implementing CETS will see testing of the operating links between Tradelink and the Government at the beginning of next year and a ''live trial'' with a limited number of traders in mid-1995.
It will then go into commercial use in 1996.
The joint Tradelink-Government study, called SPEDI or Shared Project on EDI, recommended that full access to the system be available to all, regardless of whether a business has a computer or not.
Mr Griffith said the system would eventually do away with the need for the Trade Department to handle a ''phenomenal'' amount of paper.