The Belgian Government and China’s Alibaba Group recently announced agreeing to promote inclusive trade under the Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP) initiative. Both parties will work to build an innovative trade platform to facilitate greater and more equitable access to cross-border trade opportunities, in particular for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

A memorandum of understanding for the eWTP was signed recently in Liege by Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of employment, economy and consumer affairs Kris Peeters and Senior Director of Alibaba Group James Song in the presence of Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel and Alibaba Group President of global business Angel Zhao.

“This will be a huge opportunity to boost exports and bring wide reaching economic benefits to society, including employment opportunities to Liege….This is an opportunity for not just the small businesses and young people in Belgium but across Europe,” said Michel.

The partnership 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, said company. A major element of the agreement is the establishment of a logistics infrastructure to support cross-border trade. Cainiao Smart Logistics Network Ltd., the logistics arm of group, and the Liege airport authority 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 mn euro, with the first phase of the facility planned to commence operations in early 2021.

The 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 bn worth of quality goods from the world to China over the next five years.

In addition, both sides will work together to introduce new technologies to promote digitisation of customs procedures and more efficient clearance of goods that will be crucial for global trade, in particularly for SMEs. Alibaba will also work closely with the Belgian Government to promote Belgium as an attractive tourist destination for Chinese tourists, the report added.