Alibaba: making cross-border e-commerce more accessible to SMEs

Alibaba: making cross-border e-commerce more accessible to SMEs

Alibaba Group and the municipal government of Yiwu, Zhejiang Province in China, have announced plans to develop a Digitized Comprehensive Bonded Zone under the eWTP (electronic World Trade Platform) framework, making cross-border e-commerce more accessible to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) at the world’s largest wholesale market.

The planned expansion of the strategic collaboration between Alibaba and Yiwu marks the first anniversary of the city’s establishment as an eWTP hub. The partners launched the hub last year to digitize Yiwu’s commerce infrastructure and enable new trade flows and opportunities. The expansion is especially timely, supporting the restoration and recovery of global trade under the Covid-19 pandemic.

A core part of the new initiatives is a joint venture between Alibaba Group and Yiwu-based China Commodities City Group to develop the eWTP cross-border trade service platform of Yiwu. This one-stop platform will offer SMEs digitized trade services, including customs clearance, foreign exchange settlement and tax procedures. It will be the third trade service platform established at an eWTP Hub, following the launch of trade platforms in Hangzhou, China and Liège, Belgium.

“With its advantages as a product and SME hub as well as its existing trade infrastructure, Yiwu is the definition of strategic planning for enabling businesses to navigate the digital age. Alibaba will work together with Yiwu to further facilitate the city’s transformation into a digitized small commodities trading hub and digitized port as a step toward the collective goal of complete digitization of global trade,” said Daniel Zhang, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Alibaba Group.

Pioneering a New Retail approach to cross-border trade

The joint venture will also help develop the Yiwu Comprehensive Bonded Zone , ratified by China’s State Council in April this year, into one of the country’s most-digitized trade zones. A highlight of the zone will be the launch of an offline exhibition area to showcase cross-border products, scheduled for pilot launch in mid-September.

Supporting Yiwu’s transition into an import distribution hub

To cater to rising demand from Chinese consumers for high-quality international products, Yiwu is progressing well in its transformation into a distribution hub for imported consumer goods. To this end, Alibaba Group and the municipal government of Yiwu have also announced the establishment of the eWTP Yiwu Digital Customs Clearance Port. The digital customs clearance system will enable overseas merchants exporting products to China in smaller quantities via international parcel delivery to complete and clear customs processes online, getting parcels to customers in a more-timely fashion.

Setting Yiwu SMEs on a path of growth

In the year since the eWTP’s Yiwu launch, an increasing number of SMEs have found success exporting products online. According to, Alibaba’s platform for global business-to-business trade, its Yiwu-based supplier members have attracted business opportunities from close to three million active buyers over the past 12 months, generating 82% more online transactions on a year-on-year basis.

Under the eWTP framework, Yiwu businesses have access to their counterparts in various other eWTP hubs, allowing them to explore even more cross-border opportunities.

“We believe a digitized trading world where all core aspects of commerce are digitized is under formation. From merchants to products, from order settlement to logistics, and from a container to a receipt, everything is going to be inseparable from digital technology. With our shared customer base and shared markets, Yiwu and Alibaba will jointly usher in innovations in trade rules, technology and trade models to serve our customers and markets better and create better lives for consumers,” added Zhang.

Other initiatives by Alibaba to support SMEs in Yiwu, especially to support the post-pandemic recovery phase for businesses, include a solution to facilitate cross-border and foreign exchange transactions for SMEs in partnership with the Zhejiang Chouzhou Commercial Bank. A small commodities online trade show, part of’s series of 20 online exhibitions, will also be held to attract five million international wholesalers to consider locally produced items from Yiwu. This follows the recent opening of the world’s largest digital exhibition featuring cross-border trade products by

Initiated by Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma, the eWTP is a private-sector-led, multi-stakeholder initiative that facilitates public-private dialogue and collaboration to share best practices, incubate new trade rules and foster a more-integrated policy and business environment to help develop inclusive trade and the digital economy. To date, Alibaba Group has joined forces with the governments of Belgium, Malaysia, Rwanda, and Ethiopia as well as Hangzhou and Yiwu in China to establish six eWTP hubs around the world.

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