Jack Ma calls for digital free trade zones for small businesses

Updated: 2016-06-16 20:40

By Lu Haoting in St. Petersburg and Meng Jing in Beijing(chinadaily.com.cn)

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Jack Ma calls for digital free trade zones for small businesses

Jack Ma delivers a speech at the forum. [Photo by Xu Jingxing/China Daily]

Jack Ma, founder and chairman of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, proposed the establishment of digital free trade zones for small businesses in Russia and called for the country to become an e-hub connecting Asia and Europe.

"An e-hub is a digital free trade zone designed for small businesses in which services including logistics, payment, financing and inspection would be provided," Ma said.

"Trains have stations and aircraft have airports. We should build an e-road that connects every e-hubs around the world. It would be a paradise for SMEs to sell products to serve anywhere in the world," Ma said.

"Russia has very good chance to be one of the hubs," Ma said.

Jack Ma calls for digital free trade zones for small businesses

Jack Ma, (left), chairman of Alibaba Group, chats with Kevin Rudd, president of Asia Society Policy Institute, former prime minister of Australia, on Thursday at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. [Photo by Xu Jingxing/China Daily]

Ma made the remarks at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum that opened on Thursday and will last until Saturday. The three-day forum is an annual international conference dedicated to the most pressing economic and business issues facing Russia and the rest of the world.

Ma's proposal is part of his ambition to build a global e-commerce platform called Electronic World Trade Platform that serves the interests of SMEs which have been left out of the free trade regime of the world in the past.

"In most countries, SMEs contribute over 50 percent of the GDP and even higher percentage for employment. But SMEs face challenges such as poor access to global markets, complex regulations and certifications designed for big companies, and lack of access to financing," Ma said.

"We urge G20 countries to support the growth of SMEs," said Ma, who is also the chair of the Business 20 (B20) SME Development Taskforce. B20 is the business advisory group to the G20.

"Cross-border shopping is the fastest-growing sector in Russia's e-commerce market," Ma said in a 2015 interview.

According to Ma, about one in 10 people from Russia made online purchases through Alibaba's AliExpress, a website that allows shoppers around the world to buy goods at whole sale prices. "Hundreds of thousands" of packages are sent from China to Russia on a daily basis, according to the e-commerce giant.