Liege targets e-commerce as Belgium and Alibaba sign development agreement

The Belgian government has signed a deal with e-commerce giant Alibaba to develop a trade platform in the European country with logistics infrastructure to be developed at Liege Airport.

The agreement will see Belgium and Alibaba promote inclusive trade under the Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP) initiative, which is designed to help foster electronic trade through public-private partnerships.

Both parties will work closely to co-build a trade platform that will facilitate greater and more equitable access to cross-border trade opportunities, in particular for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Another major element of the eWTP agreement is the establishment of a logistics infrastructure to support cross-border trade.

Alibaba’s logistics arm Cainiao Network and Liege Airport today also signed a contract to lease a total area of 220,000 sq m to build a hub at Liege Airport.

The initial investment will be €75m with the first phase of the facility planned to commence operations in early 2021.

Liege Airport chief executive Luc Partoune said: “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.

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 $200bn of goods from the world to China over the next five years.

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.

“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.”

Alibaba Group chief executive officer Daniel Zhang added: “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.”

In May this year the Alibaba group announced plans to establish five main logistics hubs around the world, with Liege being one of these. As well as Liege, Hangzhou, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur and Moscow are the chosen locations.

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