Alibaba extends global electronic trade partnership to Belgium

07-Dec-2018 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Alibaba Group Holding has extended its electronic world trade platform (eWTP) initiative to Belgium, the third country brought on board by the e-commerce giant after Malaysia and Rwanda.

New York-listed Alibaba signed a memorandum of agreement with the Belgian government on Wednesday to bring the eWTP, which seeks to lower barriers to global trade for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to the Western European country with a population of 11.5 million.

“With over 98 per cent of European companies being small to medium businesses, this partnership signifies our initial and expanded effort to enhance inclusive trade opportunities for these businesses in Belgium and across Europe,” Alibaba chief executive Daniel Zhang Yong said in a statement.

As part of that initiative, Alibaba-owned Cainiao Smart Logistics Network signed a contract with Belgium’s Liege Airport to lease a 220,000-square metre site where the Chinese company will build a smart logistics hub. Alibaba estimated the project will entail an initial investment of 75 million euros (US$85.3 million), with the first phase of operations expected to start in 2021.

Zhang said that facility in Belgium opens up huge potential for businesses across the continent to reap the benefits of global cross-border trade, especially into China where there is high demand for European goods.

“The arrival of Cainiao reinforces the competitiveness of our airport,” Liege Airport chief executive Luc Partoune said in the statement. “Several Chinese companies are already here.”

In September, Alibaba said it plans to invest 100 billion yuan (US$14.6 billion) to strengthen its global logistics network over the next five years.

The latest eWTP deal for Alibaba, the parent company of the South China Morning Post, followed its pledge earlier this month to help bring $200 billion worth of products from more than 120 countries into China over the next five years to help meet the rising demand of Chinese consumers for high-quality international goods.

This partnership signifies our initial and expanded effort to enhance inclusive trade opportunities for [SMEs] in Belgium and across Europe

Daniel Zhang, Alibaba CEO

That commitment came a day after Chinese president Xi Jinping made fresh promises to open up the world’s second biggest economy, including lowering import tariffs and broadening market access to support economic globalisation.

The eWTP was conceived by Alibaba executive chair Jack Ma in 2016 as an electronic Silk Road to connect every country and give SMEs the ability to sell anywhere in the world. The benefits of using eWTP hubs include speedy customs clearance, logistics support and minimal tariffs.

The first such hub was set up by Alibaba in its home base of Hangzhou, while Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur became the first city outside China to become part of the initiative. The Malaysian hub is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.

Rwanda recently became the first African nation to join the eWTP. Alibaba promised to help SMEs in Rwanda sell their products, such as coffee beans, on its online marketplaces.

Alibaba’s move to open up free trade electronically has come amid an escalating US-China trade war, with both countries slapping the other with billions of dollars in tariffs. Setting up overseas hubs under its eWTP initiative is designed to help Chinese companies pursue more international trading opportunities.

Alibaba set a record 213.5 billion yuan during its Singles’ Day shopping promotion on November 11, with health supplements, milk powder, diapers and skincare products among the most highly sought imported goods.


Category: China

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