Paris meeting decides standard for internet trading

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Forty of the world’s leading manufacturers and retailers met yesterday in Paris with trade associations representing more than 850,000 companies, large and small, to announce the first global standards for internet trading in the consumer goods industry.

The Global Commerce Internet Protocol establishes the first comprehensive recommendations on the management of standardised data across the world’s most important trading Exchanges and other business-to-business communications via the Internet.

“In recommending preliminary global data and communications standards, this move eliminates one of the biggest obstacles to effective internet trading,” said Luc Vandevelde, co-chairman of the Global Commerce Initiative (GCI) and chairman of Marks & Spencer. “Now, with this recommendation on data languages, the internet can begin to realise its extraordinary potential as a commercial tool.”

The Global Commerce Internet Protocol is the first of a series of major work products of the Global Commerce Initiative, a voluntary joint effort between consumer products retailers and manufacturers and international standards bodies. At its heart is the recognition that the business benefits of the Internet come from the instantaneous communication of information that is accurate and understood.

“We can only process data with confidence through the application of internationally recognised open and voluntary standards,” said Dr. Mario Corti, acting co-chairman of the initiative and executive vice president of Nestlé. “These basic standards benefit everyone: without them, it would be as though the world was full of telephones unable to talk to each other.”

Exchanges and other business-to-business communications have evolved rapidly around the world, and companies often find themselves interacting with a number of different exchanges. Concerned that non-standardised conventions can only cause unnecessary confusion and increase the probability of processing errors, the member companies and eight associations have agreed to a letter of support for the development of the Global Commerce Internet Protocol. They have now been joined by the four major exchanges in the consumer goods industry: Transora, the WorldWide Retail Exchange, GlobalNetXchange, and CPGmarket.com.

The protocol is concerned with the standardisation of: data access and security (which enables one computer to know which information it is authorised to share with another); basic data content (the numbering of products, services and locations); and basic information flow (the content and sequence of information in business messages). Without standardisation, data processing requires increased human intervention.

“Advantage comes from what the users and the exchanges choose to do with the information they are managing,” said Christian Koffmann, co-chairman of the Global Commerce Initiative and worldwide chairman of Johnson & Johnson. “Each exchange will develop at its own speed and will be driven by the needs of the business community it serves. “

Exchanges are independent business ventures,” said Peter Jordan, project leader for the Protocol and director of European Systems, Kraft Foods Europe. “It is not the job of the Global Commerce Initiative to influence the speed and scope of their development.”

“The work of the Global Commerce Initiative will not only address internet standards,” said Mario Corti. “It will also provide all companies with an extraordinary fund of expertise in the modelling of business processes. The Protocol, completed in just three months, is only the first phase of a substantial body of work that will provide powerful strategic tools to all users across industry.”

Draft standards for the Global Commerce Internet Protocol are available to all interested companies. Following trials, recommendations will be published as standards by the international standards bodies, EAN International and UCC, with the endorsement of the Global Commerce Initiative.

Founded in October 1999, the Global Commerce Initiative is the result of joint industry efforts in North and South America, Europe and Asia where, since the early nineties, strategic collaborations have been developing. Made possible by some of the world’s best-known companies, they include the Efficient Consumer Response movements in Europe, North and South America and Asia, together with the Voluntary Interindustry Commerce Standards Association in North America, EAN International and UCC, CIES, The Food Business Forum, FMI, AIM (The European Brands Association), and GMA.

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