Get more with myNEWS
A personalised news feed of stories that matter to you
Learn more
Alibaba chief Jack Ma discusses the global e-commerce platform in Beijing on Saturday. Photo: Simon Song

Alibaba’s plan to loosen up world trade is ambitious, Jack Ma admits, as he looks for partners

Company will reach out to one or two countries to test how a new e-commerce platform spanning the globe might work


Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba wants to start negotiations with one or two countries following the G20 summit in September about its plan to create a global e-commerce platform, which company founder and chief Jack Ma says can help knock down trade barriers.

Ma said he hoped global enterprises, including rival Amazon, would work together to create the new platform to connect smaller enterprises around the world.

“Amazon, we respect a lot. They are doing a lot of global trade. If we can work together, that will be fantastic, but I don’t know if they like my idea or not,” he said in Beijing on Saturday.

Chinese e-commerce sellers prefer Amazon for international access

Ma first raised the idea of an electronic world trade platform at the Boao Forum for Asia in March and has been lobbying enterprises and governments at other opportunities, including the B20, a summit bringing businessmen together from the G20 economies.

Alibaba is the owner of the South China Morning Post.

Ma said the company was setting up a group to study what rules should apply to the platform, including ones covering tariffs and logistics. The standards would be complicated, he predicted, given the involvement of many companies from different countries.

If we go to a country and the president says ‘it’s good and give us a proposal’, where is the proposal?
Jack Ma, Alibaba chief

“If we go to a country and the president says ‘it’s good and give us a proposal’, where is the proposal? We are now forming an internal team to prepare for the proposal’s rules and laws,” he said.

He expected to test the waters by holding talks with one or two countries sometime after the G20 and B20 summit, which will be held in Hangzhou in Zhejiang province in September.

Employees sort boxes and parcels for online orders at an express delivery centre in Wuhan, Hubei province in this file photo from 2015. Photo: Reuters

Ma said the new platform was aimed at reducing trade barriers, but unlike the World Trade Organisation, it would be organised by businesses, with support from governments.

Ma said he was aware of the difficulties and he was prepared to spend decades to turn his vision into reality.

Economic slowdown, rapid e-commerce adoption is changing the way Chinese firms do business, says Alibaba’s Jack Ma

The eWTP was an open platform which would involve many people and many countries, he said. One of the most difficult parts would be setting up the game rules, as that’s “very complicated”.

“It may take 20 or even 30 years to see the achievement of the eWTP, and we see a lot of challenges in the future,” he said.

“Alibaba doesn’t necessary own this platform, but we want to participate in building it,” Ma said.

He described the road to setting up the platform as a relay race. “We are the first runners, but we don’t want to run all four rounds and we want to give it to somebody to follow up,” he said.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: alibaba seeking partners in global e-commerce platform