Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, has formed a partnership with the Belgian government that will see the creation of a trade hub and other initiatives to facilitate cross-border trade opportunities.

According to a Memorandum of Understanding, signed this week by Belgium’s deputy prime minister and senior Alibaba executives, Belgium becomes the first country in Europe to sign up to Alibaba’s Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP).

As explained in a statement released by both parties, the initiative is aimed primarily at small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) to help them boost their competitiveness when selling to Chinese consumers.

Jack Ma, Alibaba’s founder and executive chairman, first proposed the private sector-led eWTP in 2016 as a means of developing global e-commerce by sharing technology and good practice, including marketing, among participants.

It has since been adopted by China, Malaysia and Rwanda, and Alibaba aims to launch a series of e-hubs around the world to enable it to act as a “gateway to China” for international brands.

With Belgium becoming the first European country to take part, Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang pointed out that 98% of European companies are SMEs and that this new partnership would enhance trading opportunities for them 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,” he said.

Meanwhile, Belgian 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.

“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”.

Under the terms of the agreement, Alibaba’s logistics arm Cainiao will open a 220,000 square metre logistics hub at Liege airport to help SMEs with their exports.

In addition, Alibaba said it would work closely with Belgian regional trade and investment agencies on product promotions, marketing and direct imports of Belgian goods via Alibaba’s platforms.

There also will be closer collaboration on new technologies, such as the digitisation of customs procedures, as well as efforts to promote Belgium as a tourist destination for Chinese tourists.

Sourced from Alibaba, Government of Belgium; additional content by WARC staff