Alibaba's Cainiao Smart Logistics Network signs a deal on Tuesday with Belgium's Liege Airport to build a 220,000-square-meter logistics hub. (Photo by Niu Jing/For China Daily)
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd has announced a plan to build a logistics hub in Belgium, as part of wider plans to facilitate trade and connectivity.
Alibaba's Cainiao Smart Logistics Network signed a deal on Tuesday with Belgium's Liege Airport to build a 220,000-square-meter logistics hub, at an initial investment of 75 million euros ($84.96 million). The first phase is expected to begin operations in early 2021.
"The arrival of Cainiao reinforces the competitiveness of our airport," said Liege Airport CEO Luc Partoune. "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."
The move came as Belgium signed up as a member of the Alibaba-led inclusive trade initiative called the Electronic World Trade Platform, becoming the first European country to do so.
The pair signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the same day in Liege to bring the eWTP to the country of 11.4 million, watched by 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 far-reaching economic benefits to society, including employment opportunities to Liege," Michel said in a statement.
He said participation in the eWTP underlines the country's vision to help local small and medium-sized companies become more competitive in the global marketplace in the digital age, adding it is an opportunity for "not just the small businesses and young people in Belgium, but across Europe".
With over 98 percent of European companies being small to medium-sized businesses, the partnership signifies Alibaba's initial and expanded efforts to enhance inclusive trade opportunities for these businesses in Belgium and across Europe, said company CEO Daniel Zhang.
Alibaba said the new smart logistics hub will be the cornerstone of the eWTP infrastructure collaboration and facilitate access to the Chinese market. This also serves the company's earlier-pledged goal to help import $200 billion of quality goods from the outside world to China over the next five years.
In addition to the logistics hub, Alibaba and the Belgian government will work to digitize and streamline customs procedures to allow for a more-efficient clearance of goods, which would further support SMEs.
Alibaba and Belgian trade and investment agencies will also work on promotions, marketing and direct imports of Belgian products to increase their sales on Alibaba's e-commerce platforms. Other cooperation endeavors include the promotion of the country as an attractive destination for Chinese tourists.
Since it was first proposed by Alibaba chairman Jack Ma in 2016, the eWTP has been recognized by the G20, as well as adopted by China, Malaysia and Rwanda. The goal is to launch a series of e-hubs across the globe, so that all businesses, not just multinational companies, can participate in cross-border commerce.