Jack Ma, executive chairman of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, has called for the establishment of an electronic world trade platform whose objective would be to reduce barriers to make it easier for small and medium-sized enterprises to expand their trading capabilities worldwide.
The so-called eWTP initiative, which Ma first proposed in March, has become a hot topic as business leaders from around the world gather for the 2016 B20 Summit in Hangzhou this weekend and consider ways to spur growth.
The platform "is going to be very fundamental for the next 20 or 30 years for the world economy, and for this century", Ma said before summit.
Recognized by many industry observers as an effective way to boost the development of SMEs, the eWTP initiative appears in the final B20 Policy Report.
Gianfranco Casati, group chief executive of emerging markets at Accenture, said e-trade significantly reduces costs for SMEs and eases access to customers.
Luigi Gambardella, president of ChinaEU, a member of the B20 SME Development Task Force, said he expected "the eWTP will provide SMEs a transparent and open platform to sell their goods and services globally, thus facilitating their inclusion in cross-border e-trade".
Following is an outline of eWTP, as outlined by Ma:
What is eWTP?
Alibaba's Ma views the eWTP as an international co-operation mechanism that is led by the private sector and driven by businesses with support from governments. Through public-private dialogues, and by discussing, exploring the best practices to promote cross-border e-trade and building up related regulations and standards, it can create a fertile soil for the development of the internet economy and e-commerce worldwide.
In Ma's vision, businesses would create hubs for e-commerce and governments would create virtual free trade zones for small businesses. The eHubs would allow small businesses in one country to sell to consumers in another, with low or no import duties, speedy customs clearances and better access to logistics. When connected, this would create a global network that becomes the eWTP.
Why does Alibaba want to raise the eWTP initiative?
The benefits of increased trade and globalisation have not reached smaller enterprises and developing countries as much as it has benefited their larger, more established counterparts. With the development of e-commerce, any small enterprise, or even an individual, would be able to buy and sell globally via online platforms. In fact, small businesses and individuals are becoming the driving force in the new round of globalisation. So there is need to innovate the traditional management methods and regulations in trade to meet the demand of the new era.
What are the goals of eWTP?
The broader goal is to lower the threshold to enable more people around the world to conduct trade by reducing barriers and making it easier for SMEs to expand their trading capabilities. Another goal is to facilitate the globalisation of consumption while helping young people fulfil their dreams via free and fair trade around the world.