The headquarters of private e-commerce giant Alibaba Group in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province. [Photo by Niu Jing/For China Daily]
BRUSSELS - Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba inked an agreement with the federal government of Belgium on Wednesday to open its first Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP) in Europe with the aim of promoting long-term cross-border trade.
The agreement was signed by Belgium's Deputy Prime Minister Kris Peeters and Senior Director of the Alibaba Group James Song. Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel and Alibaba Group President of Global Business Angel Zhao, were present witnessing the signing of the memorandum of understanding.
Prime Minister Michel declared that "Today is a historic day. This cooperation will enhance the competitiveness of Belgian and European companies on the global stage".
Cao Zhongming, the newly appointed Chinese ambassador to Belgium, said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua that this latest agreement is a sign of growing cooperation between Belgium and China, but hinted that more can be done to expand cooperation.
"The establishment of this new electronic trading platform in Liège will drive more Belgian enterprises to cooperate with China and promote the export of high-quality Belgian products to China for our mutual benefit. Pragmatic cooperation injects new impetus," said Cao.
A major element of the eWTP agreement signed is the establishment of a logistics infrastructure to support cross-border trade. Cainiao Smart Logistics Network Ltd, the logistics arm of Alibaba Group, and Liège Airport also signed a contract to lease a 220,000-square-meter area to build a world-class smart logistics hub at the airport.
The initial investment will be 75 million euros, with the first phase of the facility planned to commence operations in early 2021. The Liège smart hub is expected to enhance overall logistics efficiency and help small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) better manage their exports especially with the surge in global e-commerce.
The new smart logistics hub will be the cornerstone of the eWTP infrastructure collaboration, with Alibaba playing a key role in facilitating trade, particularly for accessing the China market, as part of the group's commitment to serve as the "Gateway to China" and help import 200 billion dollars worth of quality goods to China over the next five years.
In addition, the government of Belgium and Alibaba will work closely together to introduce new technologies that will promote the digitization of customs procedures and the more efficient clearance of goods, which will be crucial for global trade, in particular for SMEs.
Alibaba and Belgium's trade and investment agencies will also collaborate to increase the sales of quality Belgian products on e-commerce platforms within Alibaba's ecosystem. This will include product promotions, marketing and direct imports by Alibaba's platforms.
Alibaba will also work closely with the Belgian government to promote Belgium as an attractive destination for Chinese tourists. Over the past two years, the eWTP has become an exceedingly marketable concept for Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma, who pitched the idea for the first time at the 2016 Boao Forum for Asia. The world e-commerce platform has already set up subsidiaries in Malaysia and Rwanda. This latest MoU with Belgium will sow the seeds for the eWTP's speedy entry into new European markets.
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