Alibaba aims to get more US products on Taobao, Tmall via June trade fair in Detroit

The move is a step in fulfilling Alibaba founder Jack Ma’s January pledge to help create a million jobs in the US.

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 April, 2017, 6:56pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 April, 2017, 11:17pm

Jack Ma Yun, the founder of Alibaba Group Holding, will host a two-day trade fair in June to get American businesses to use the world’s largest online shopping platform for selling their products to China’s 600 million middle-class consumers, a step in fulling his January pledge to help create a million American jobs.

Watch: Video of Jack Ma’s open letter to US-based small and medium enterprises

The fair, to be called Gateway 17, will be held on June 20 and 21 at the Cobo Center in Detroit, the Midwest automotive city that signifies the birth, subsequent demise and most recent rejuvenation of the US manufacturing industry.

China overtook the US in 2016 as the world’s largest retail market, with US$4.84 trillion in sales, with a voracious appetite for everything from clothing to foodstuff to electronics. Chinese consumers are expected to spend more than US$150 billion on foreign-made goods by 2020, according to a January report by eMarketer.

It’s also made Alibaba’s Taobao and Tmall the two largest e-commerce sites on the planet, in the process propelling the e-commerce operator into a US$286 billion company.

“The Chinese market presents tremendous opportunities for U.S. small businesses and farmers to grow their businesses, and in turn, create more U.S. jobs,” Ma said in an open letter on Tuesday. “We are already a gateway for thousands of global brands, retailers and companies to sell to Chinese consumers. And we want to expand that gateway – level the playing field – to make it easy for American entrepreneurs, small businesses and farmers alike to take advantage of the China opportunity.”

US brands including Apple, Nike and New Balance are already available to Chinese shoppers on Taobao, while Tmall already allows mainland customers to browse Macy’s New York store via virtual reality without needing to go abroad.

Getting more US businesses on board would be a boon for the online shopping business of Alibaba, owner of the South China Morning Post.

Alibaba’s 2016 Singles’ Day shopping festival, a 24-hour online retail event held every November 11, logged a record 120.7 billion yuan (US$15.5 billion) of purchases shopped from overseas web stores.

Having more US businesses on Alibaba’s platforms would also create more American jobs. During their January 9 meeting in New York, Ma discussed with the newly elected president Donald Trump the possibilities of helping create a million jobs in the US.

Getting Trump on side wouldn’t hurt Alibaba, which was added last year by the outgoing Barack Obama administration to a list of the world’s most notorious markets for selling counterfeit goods.

Since then, Alibaba had deployed big data analytics and an artificial intelligence bot to recognise counterfeit products on its sites, helping Chinese law enforcement seize 1.43 billion yuan of bootleg products and sending 800 counterfeiters to jail, the company said in December.