Alibaba's Jack Ma pro­poses new global e-com­merce plat­form

The Pak Banker - - COMPANIES/BOSS -

Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, on Wed­nes­day called for a fresh global e-com­merce plat­form to ac­com­mo­date the in­ter­ests of small traders who have been en­abled by e-com­merce to buy and sell across bor­ders.

Speak­ing at the Boao Fo­rum for Asia in the south­ern prov­ince of Hainan, Ma said he calls for an Elec­tronic World Trade Plat­form, or e-WTP, to en­able small and medium en­ter­prises that had been largely left out of the free trade regime of the world in the past. "In the In­ter­net Age, we need trade plat­forms that are more open, fairer and freer," Ma said.

"We need to go back to trade it­self. It is not an or­ga­ni­za­tion. It is not a ne­go­ti­a­tion. It is just a plat­form to en­able the small and medium en­ter­prises and the con­sumers of the world, es­pe­cially the young," he added.

Ma did not spec­ify de­tails of the rules for the plat­form, but cus­toms and tax pro­ce­dures are the main bar­ri­ers to cross-bor­der e-com­merce.

Ma said the e-WTP he en­vis­ages will bet­ter con­nect small and medium en­ter­prises through lo­gis­tics and in­clu­sive fi­nanc­ing, thereby, of­fer­ing 80 per­cent of those not en­gaged at the cur­rent time to par­tic­i­pate in trade.

He said the free trade regime rep­re­sented by the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WTO) has largely ben­e­fited large cor­po­ra­tions and multi­na­tion­als, the top 20 per­cent, while small and medium en­ter­prises and the young in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries are left be­hind. "Trade blocs are of­ten used to ad­vance pro­tec­tion­ism rather than as en­ablers," he said, cit­ing weak global trade growth. "Trade is the best way for peo­ple across the world to com­mu­ni­cate with each other. No mat­ter if you like it or not, an age of new trade has come," Ma added.

Speak­ing in the panel dis­cus­sion, Long Yongtu, for­mer vice min­is­ter for trade and a top trade ne­go­tia­tor, said the glob­al­iza­tion process is not los­ing steam.

Long said in­dus­trial re­struc­tur­ing, driven by tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ment, was chang­ing the process of glob­al­iza­tion, and new mo­men­tum will be cre­ated as more in­dus­tries "go dig­i­tal." "The global al­lo­ca­tion of re­sources in the past largely ben­e­fited de­vel­oped economies and multi­na­tion­als. In the In­ter­net Age, we need to up­date the trade rules so more peo­ple ben­e­fit," Long said.

Luis Al­berto Moreno, pres­i­dent of the In­ter-Amer­i­can Devel­op­ment Bank, said the free trade regimes of the world were prob­lem­atic and busi­nesses should play a big­ger role. Kasper Ja­cob­son, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Mead John­son Nu­tri­tion, said it was im­por­tant to elim­i­nate ge­o­graph­i­cal dis­crim­i­na­tion.

In­done­sian Trade Min­is­ter Tom Lem­bong said the e-WTP pro­posed by Jack Ma re­flected the short­com­ings of the cur­rent world free trade regime and it might play a part in solv­ing trade pro­tec­tion­ism.

Ma said the new plat­form will not re­place the WTO, but rather, com­ple­ment the ex­ist­ing free trade regime. Over­all trade will con­tinue to grow. He said it was a press­ing task, to es­tab­lish the e-WTP, as the pace of do­ing busi­ness in the In­ter­net Age is much faster than in the past when free trade talks could take years to con­clude. He said he will try to raise the e-WTP topic to the G20 meet­ings.

China will play host to G20 lead­ers in Septem­ber this year in Hangzhou, where the Alibaba Group, led by Ma, is head­quar­tered.

Long said the stake­hold­ers, in­clud­ing busi­nesses, gov­ern­ments and civil so­ci­ety should be in­cluded in the cre­ation of the e-WTP. Mul­ti­lat­eral or­ga­ni­za­tions have done some ground work to for­mu­late global rules for e-com­merce, but that the gov­ern­ment still has a role to play, with the pos­si­bil­ity of an in­sti­tu­tion or even a sec­re­tar­iat be­ing es­tab­lished for the e-WTP. It would be good if the con­cept can even­tu­ally be­come part of the global trade pro­to­cols like the WTO, he said.

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