The Federal Government of Belgium (“Government of Belgium”) and Alibaba Group Holding Limited (NYSE: BABA; “Alibaba Group”) today announced they have agreed to promote inclusive trade under the Electronic World Trade Platform (“eWTP”) initiative. Both parties will work closely to co-build a more inclusive and innovative trade platform that will facilitate greater and more equitable access to cross-border trade opportunities, in particular for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the eWTP was signed today by Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Employment, Economy and Consumer Affairs Kris Peeters and Senior Director of Alibaba Group James Song. It was witnessed by Prime Minister of Belgium Charles Michel and Alibaba Group President of Global Business Angel Zhao.
Prime Minister Charles Michel said, “I am excited to welcome eWTP to Belgium and the commitment of Alibaba to improve the competitiveness of Belgian and European firms on the global stage in this partnership. 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 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. This is an opportunity for not just the small businesses and young people in Belgium but across Europe”.
The partnership with the Government of Belgium will be Alibaba’s initial effort to promote inclusive global trade in Europe, building on the success of similar eWTP partnerships in Asia and Africa over the past two years.
“I am delighted that the Government of Belgium is confident toward the eWTP vision and share our commitment. With over 98% 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. We strongly believe that under the eWTP, we will open up the huge potential for European businesses to reap the benefits of global cross-border trade, especially into the China market where the demand for European goods is high,” said Alibaba Group Chief Executive Officer Daniel Zhang.
A major element of the eWTP agreement signed today in Belgium is the establishment of a logistics infrastructure to support cross-border trade. Cainiao Smart Logistics Network Ltd. (“Cainiao Network”), the logistics arm of Alibaba Group, and Liege Airport today also signed a contract to lease a total area of 220,000 square meters to build a world-class smart logistics hub at Liege Airport. The initial investment will be 75 million euros, with the first phase of the facility planned to commence operations in early 2021. The Liege smart logistics hub will enhance overall logistics efficiency to help 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 US$200 billion worth of quality goods from the world to China over the next five years.
“Alibaba’s eWTP project reinforces the attractiveness of our country and its regions. Chinese companies, in particular, those from the tech sector are investing in Belgium. As world trade continues to expand, Wallonia is an ideal logistics hub for global companies given our leading edge in cargo expertise and connectivity for block trains and seaports. This agreement will improve the infrastructure to meet the increasing exports of Belgian products to China,” said Pierre-Yves Jeholet, Regional Minister for Economy, Trade & Investment.
Luc Partoune, CEO of Liege Airport, explains: “The arrival of Cainiao Network 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.”
In addition, the Government of Belgium and Alibaba will work closely together to introduce new technologies that will promote digitisation of customs procedures and more efficient clearance of goods which will be crucial for global trade in particularly for SMEs.
Alibaba and Belgian trade and investment agencies will also collaborate to increase the sales opportunity 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 tourist destination for Chinese tourists.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel and Alibaba Group Chairman Jack Ma met in July this year to discuss the eWTP initiative, with the Prime Minister expressing interest for Belgium to become an eWTP partner and promoting its vision. Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Kris Peeters reconfirmed this interest during a meeting with Alibaba Group CEO Daniel Zhang at the China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai. Both parties have worked relentlessly for the past six months, resulting in today’s signing of the partnership.