(Yicai Global) Dec. 6 -- China's second-biggest e-commerce operator, Alibaba Group Holding, has teamed up with the Belgian government to build a trade hub that will help companies in the European country sell goods abroad.
Alibaba's logistics arm, Cainiao Smart Logistics Network, will build the distribution center at Liege Airport, Alibaba said online yesterday. Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel attended the signing ceremony alongside executives from the Chinese retail titan.
The hub is part of Hangzhou-based Alibaba's Electronic World Trade Platform, which aims to use e-commerce to break down barriers to global trade for small- and medium-sized enterprises. It offers logistics, financing, cloud computing and mobile payment services to help vendors access new markets.
"This will be a huge opportunity to boost exports and bring wide reaching economic benefits to society, including employment opportunities to Liege," Michel said. "Participation in eWTP underlines our country's vision to help local small and medium-sized companies to be more competitive in the global marketplace in the digital age."
The 220,000 square meter hub, which will be built over three phases and open in 2021, aims to promote quick customs clearance around the globe via an electronic platform, said Shi Jimiao, chief executive of Cainiao. It will also be connected to vast transport and storage networks across Western Europe to make logistics more efficient, he added.
"Liege is located in the heart of Europe and the areas within a radius of 300 kilometers generate 60 percent of gross domestic product in the European Union," Shi said. "The parcels from there can be delivered to France, the UK, Germany, Spain and other major markets within five hours."
The center will be the first of its kind in Europe, though Cainiao already has several running around the world -- including in its hometown Hangzhou, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Dubai and Moscow -- and plans to interconnect all of them.
"European SMEs can also quickly deliver quality goods to global markets, including China, via Liege," Shi continued, saying "Liege Airport has good conditions for building a world-class logistics hub and I believe that Cainiao's Liege eHub will become an important gatewat for world goods to enter and exit Europe."
Editor: James Boynton