The Belgian government has become the first European country to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with China’s leading online marketplace Alibaba to join the Electronic World Trade Platform – an initiative launched by the e-commerce giant to lower global trade barriers for small and medium-sized businesses.
The 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.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said, “This will be a huge opportunity to boost exports and bring wide reaching economic benefits to society, including employment opportunities to Liege.
“Participation in eWTP (Electronic World Trade Platform) 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.”
Since it was first proposed in 2016, the eWTP has been recognized 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% of companies are small businesses. “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,” said Zhang.
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 220,000m² (2,368,000ft²) shipping hub at the airport. With an initial investment of €75m (US$86m), the hub is expected to begin operations in early 2021.
“The arrival of Cainiao reinforces the competitiveness of our airport,” said Luc Partoune, CEO, Liege 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.”
In addition to the logistics hub, Alibaba and the Belgium government will work to digitize 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.