Belgium has become the first European country to become a member of the Alibaba-led Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP).
The Alibaba Group and the government of Belgium on Wednesday signed a memorandum of understanding to bring the eWTP to the country of 11.4 million.
The eWTP seeks to lower barriers to global trade for small and medium-sized businesses via e-commerce. The private sector-led, multi-stakeholder initiative offers SMEs easier access to new markets via simple and straightforward regulations, as well as support in logistics, financing, cloud computing and mobile payments services.
“This will be a huge opportunity to boost exports and bring wide reaching economic benefits to society, including employment opportunities to Liege,” says Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel and Deputy Prime Minister Kris Peeters.
“Participation in eWTP underlines our country’s vision to help local small and medium-sized companies to be more competitive in the global marketplace in the digital age,” he adds.[pullquote]The arrival of Cainiao reinforces the competitiveness of our airport. Several Chinese companies are already here. Other companies will be attracted by the presence of Cainiao and the opportunity for e-commerce growth between Europe and China.” – Liege Airport CEO Luc Partoune[/pullquote]
Since it was first proposed by Jack Ma, co-founder and executive chairman of the Alibaba Group in 2016, the eWTP has been recognised by the G20, as well as adopted by China, Malaysia and Rwanda.
The goal is to launch a series of e-hubs across the globe so that all businesses – not just multinational companies – can participate in cross-border commerce.
That mission could have a significant impact in Europe, said Alibaba Group CEO Daniel Zhang, where 98 per cent of companies are small businesses. Moreover, the partnership is a chance for Alibaba to make good on its promise to serve as a ‘Gateway to China’ for international companies while importing USD 200 billion worth of goods to China over the next five years.
“We strongly believe that under the eWTP platform, we will open up the huge potential opportunities for European SMEs to reap the benefits of global cross-border trade, especially into the China market where the demand for European goods is high,” Zhang says.
A key part of the agreement between Alibaba and Belgium is the building of logistics infrastructure to support cross-border trade for SMEs. To that end, Alibaba-owned Cainiao Smart Logistics Network signed a deal with Belgium’s Liege Airport to build a 220,000 sqm shipping hub at the airport. With an initial investment of EUR 75 million, the first phase of hub is expected to begin operations in early 2021.
“The arrival of Cainiao reinforces the competitiveness of our airport,” says Liege Airport (LGG) CEO Luc Partoune. “Several Chinese companies are already here. Other companies will be attracted by the presence of Cainiao and the opportunity for e-commerce growth between Europe and China.”
In addition to the logistics hub, Alibaba and the Belgium government will work to digitise and, therefore, streamline customs procedures to allow for a more-efficient clearance of goods, which would further support SMEs.
Alibaba will also collaborate with the Belgian trade and investment agencies for the regions of Flanders, Brussels and Wallonia on promotions, marketing and direct imports of Belgian products to increase their sales on Alibaba’s e-commerce platforms.
Alibaba and the Belgian government will also partner to promote the country as an attractive destination for Chinese tourists.
Prime Minister Michel first expressed interest in joining the eWTP during a meeting with Ma in July. Deputy Prime Minister Peeters reiterated that intention to Zhang while attending the China International Import Expo in Shanghai in early November. The two parties have been working since that first meeting to reach an agreement.