Alibaba Group and Malaysia on Friday officially switched on a digital hub aimed at small and medium-sized enterprises looking to engage in international trade.
The hub offers Malaysian SMEs the infrastructure for doing commerce with service offerings such as e-commerce, logistics, cloud computing, mobile payment and talent training.
The Malaysia hub, a key feature of the country’s Digital Free Trade Zone, is the first Alibaba has opened outside of China. It is also a living example of the Electronic World Trade Platform initiative proposed by Alibaba Executive Chairman Jack Ma in 2016 to facilitate exports by small-and-medium businesses and young entrepreneurs worldwide. Already, more than 1,900 Malaysian SMEs have signed up to use the eWTP hub.
Alibaba and the Malaysian government announced the hub’s opening at a Kuala Lumpur event, one attended by Ma and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. The hub is the culmination of six months of collaboration between Alibaba and the Southeast Asian country.
“Collaborating with Alibaba to develop the infrastructure freely available to SMEs in the DFTZ, we have fundamentally improved the competitiveness of Malaysian firms on the global stage which will boost exports and bring wide reaching economic benefits to society,” Najib said.
Ma said Malaysia’s participation in eWTP underlines the country’s vision to help local small and medium-sized companies to be more competitive in the global marketplace in the Internet age.
“I’m truly amazed by the resolve and commitment of the Malaysian government to remove all the barriers in just under a year to make this day possible,” said Ma at the event. “Today we are witnessing a historic moment in Asia where one country has begun to use technology to enable its SMEs and young people to become more competitive on the world stage.”
“As the eWTP hub in DFTZ commences operation, they will have the opportunity to ‘global buy,’ ‘global sell,’ ‘global pay,’ ‘global delivery’ and ‘global travel.’ This is an opportunity for not just the small businesses and young people in Malaysia but across Asia,” he added.
The eWTP was designed to revolutionize international trade by removing the traditional barriers that have prevented SMEs from participating in cross-border commerce. Moreover, by offering services previously only available to larger, better-resourced companies, the eWTP means SMEs can reduce costs, shorten supply chains and increase their logistics efficiency. The lets them streamline operations and better mange their exports.
Last year, Alibaba helped establish a pilot free-trade zone in Hangzhou from which to launch the eWTP. In March, the government of Malaysia created its own digital free-trade zone in Kuala Lumpur to serve as the first such e-hub outside of China.
Friday’s event also included a groundbreaking for a regional e-commerce logistics hub to be developed by Malaysia Airports Holdings and Cainiao, Alibaba’s logistics affiliate, via a joint venture. The facility will enable speedy storage, fulfillment, customs clearance and warehousing operations.
Both parties have also agreed to further “explore linkages” between the Hangzhou and Kuala Lumpur projects to create an “e-road” for cross-border trade, which includes, but is not limited to, simplifying ways for SMEs in China and Malaysia to access customs clearance, inspection and permits for cross-border e-trade.
A key component of the partnership was the launch of Malaysian Pavilion last month, in which items from Malaysia, ranging from coffee, furniture, cosmetics to industrial machinery, are promoted and sold on Alibaba.com. Alibaba is also establishing a one-stop solution platform with an emphasis on providing export-facilitation support to local SMEs, with services ranging from marketing and customs clearance, to streamlined permit application procedures and tax declaration and more.