Executives from Alibaba Group told reporters on the cusp of the G20 Hangzhou summit that the company wants to open up an entirely new universe for small businesses and unlock the purchasing power of 1.4 billion Chinese.
The news comes after Alibaba's founder Ma Yun—also known as Jack Ma in the West—announced his intention to create a global free trade platform earlier this year.
As an integral part of the G20 Hangzhou summit, the Business 20 (B20) meeting, which will gather more than 800 top international business leaders, is seen as a drawing board for worldwide economic strategies. Ma is expected to use the event, which will also take place in his hometown of Hangzhou, to lobby support for his idea from top government and business leaders.
Named the "Electronic World Trade Platform" (e-WTP), this proposed system would be free of tax and customs procedures, though specifics have yet to be released.
At Alibaba's headquarters in Hangzhou, Alibaba President Michael Evans talked about the company's globalization goals. "Alibaba plans to connect tens of millions of profitable merchants and consumers," said Evans, who wanted the e-WTP to empower small businesses and consumers around the world to sell and buy at any time globally.
Nonetheless, how can such a system operate in the face of increasing global trade protectionism?
Evans told Beijing Review that the e-WTP faces several challenges because it aims to allow products to move seamlessly from one country to another. "So we are going to be piloting this project in a couple of countries which are set up today in a way that allows both products to move both ways in bilateral trade," said Evans, who declined to disclose which countries would be involved.
Evans said that Alibaba hopes those pilots will set an example for small businesses, consumers and governments in other countries to think about what adjustments they would make for their trade policies in order to facilitate trade for small businesses.
"We need to think about this in a very global sense—every country in the world loves small businesses. The question is what infrastructure and what changes do countries need to make to allow the flow of goods back and forth between countries anywhere in the world," he said, claiming that the e-WTP would provide solutions to those problems in the future.
(Reporting from Hangzhou)