Forty of the planet’s largest retailers and manufacturers met last week in Paris to agree a framework for the Global Commerce Initiative – a set of worldwide standards governing web-based business-to-business transactions.

At the meeting of multinational giants – among them Carrefour, Coca-Cola, Marks & Spencer, Unilever and Wal-Mart – broad agreement was reached on the technical protocols for sending and receiving routine items such as purchase orders over the internet.

As Luc Vandevelde, the recently appointed chairman of UK retail chain Marks & Spencer, put it: “We can save ourselves a lot of headaches if we agree on some basic standards. Data and communication of data should not be a competitive advantage; how you use it should be.”

The rules are intended to help businesses gain the greatest benefit from web-based trading, which GCI members believe will hasten transactions, reduce costs and promote access to new markets.

The GCI standards, drafted over the past three months, will now be trialled by members, as well as other companies, forming a technical framework for basic transactions. After the pilot period, suggestions will be invited for modifications and improvements, with the final guidelines adopted as early as this fall.

News source: Wall Street Journal