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Alibaba Calls For Digital Free Trade Zones

by Mary Swire,, Hong Kong
Monday, June 20, 2016

During remarks at the recent St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Alibaba Group Executive Chairman Jack Ma urged that online free-trade zones (FTZs) should be established so that small businesses can participate in world trade.

"In most countries, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) contribute more than 50 percent of GDP and an even higher percentage of employment," Ma pointed out. He noted, however, that they are presently unable to participate in global trade because of market entry problems, such as complex product regulations.

It is envisaged that SMEs would be able to engage in ecommerce with foreign consumers, free of import duties, across the FTZs. "Imagine if SMEs could buy and sell products anywhere in the world with mobile phones and PCs," Ma said. "Trains have stations, airplanes have airports, boats have docks. We need global FTZs for small businesses, or e-hubs."

He also suggested that global trade barriers to SMEs could also be reduced by establishing "the Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP)," an internet-based body for small businesses. "We recommend G20 countries support the eWTP, which should help to support a new and more open way for global trade," Ma concluded.