Wednesday, 20 Mar 2019

Commerce Department Taps R3, Mastercard For Trade Finance Council

The U.S. Commerce Department is expanding its Trade Finance Advisory Council (TFAC), having recently appointed 21 new members to the group in an effort to explore innovation in and access to trade finance.

Among the new members is blockchain company R3, according to Bitcoin Exchange Guide reports on Thursday (March 14), which will be represented in the Council by the firm’s Head of Trade and Supply Chain Alisa DiCaprio. The appointment signals the Commerce Department’s interest in exploring distributed ledger technology to facilitate trade finance, an increasingly common use case for blockchain solutions.

“The ready availability of trade finance is a crucial ingredient to the success of U.S. exporters across virtually every economic sector,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross in a statement. “The TFAC provides industry stakeholders with a critical voice in government, allowing the department to better assist American exporters.”

Other members of the group include Mastercard, John Deere, City National Bank and First American Bank.

Reports mused that R3’s appointment may give a boost to Ripple, which is working with the R3 Consortium to expand use of its XRP cryptocurrency. The digital currency is currently used by the R3 Corda platform in its settlement process to facilitate movement of money across borders.

R3 Consortium members developed their blockchain trade finance prototype in 2017, which operates on the Corda platform and streamlines exchange of letters of credit for participating financial institutions.

Several other industry players have developed their own blockchain-powered trade finance solutions in recent years, though some analysts have raised skepticism as to whether the technology is a viable and profitable option for financial institutions and other service providers.

“The question is how we enable them to connect together seamlessly over time – and they will become increasingly interoperable,” Michael Vrontamitis, head of trade in Europe and the Americas at Standard Chartered, said in an interview with the Financial Times last year. “And there will be a few that survive.”

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