E-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Chairman Jack Ma Yun said Wednesday he has been mulling over setting up a network for smaller companies that would cross borders.
He made the comment during a seminar on the Internet economy at the ongoing Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2015, also known as Summer Davos, in Dalian, Northeast China's Liaoning Province.
"I have been thinking for two years about how to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) benefit from globalization in the way that big multinationals have," Ma said.
During the past two decades, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has mainly served the interests of large companies, and people need a new version of the WTO under which merchants around the world would lead negotiations to form an agreement, Ma said.
Trade talks at the WTO are dominated by governments, yet unanimous agreement is very difficult to achieve, affecting business, Ma said, referring to the fruitless Doha Round of World Trade Talks that was launched in 2001.
The Internet in the new era should be harnessed to help SMEs as a kind of e-WTO, Ma said, noting that approval by governments is also important. Such a system needs to include stakeholders from many backgrounds such as governments, businesses and civil society, Ma said.
Since 2014, Alibaba has helped smaller firms in the US to sell cherries and nuts to Chinese consumers.
At the beginning of 2015, Ma set a 10-year target to enable 2 billion consumers worldwide to buy overseas goods online, media reports said.
Ma's thoughts about the Internet and the economy were echoed by other experts attending the forum.
The business model that Internet companies are building will help China's economy transform itself from a labor-intensive one to a technology- and knowledge-driven one, Sun Baohong, professor of marketing at the Beijing-based Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business, told the Global Times Wednesday.
Sun said that process will also cut costs and improve efficiency.
Sun pointed to fundamental changes driven by technology that empower consumers.
"Consumers have the power to tell companies what they want," she said. "And firms will use consumers' information to build a better platform, which is a better and new ecosystem compared with the traditional one."