BOAO - Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, on Wednesday called for a fresh global e-commerceplatform 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 foran Electronic World Trade Platform, or e-WTP, to enable small and medium enterprises thathad 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 aplatform 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 arethe main barriers to cross-border e-commerce.
Ma said the e-WTP he envisages will better connect small and medium enterprises throughlogistics and inclusive financing, thereby, offering 80 percent of those not engaged at thecurrent time to participate in trade.
He said the free trade regime represented by the World Trade Organization (WTO) haslargely benefited large corporations and multinationals, the top 20 percent, while small andmedium enterprises and the young in developing countries are left behind.
"Trade blocs are often used to advance protectionism rather than as enablers," he said, citingweak global trade growth.
"Trade is the best way for people across the world to communicate with each other. No matterif 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 tradenegotiator, said the globalization process is not losing steam.
Long said industrial restructuring, driven by technological advancement, was changing theprocess 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 andmultinationals. 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 traderegimes of the world were problematic and businesses should play a bigger role. KasperJacobson, chief executive officer of Mead Johnson Nutrition, said it was important to eliminategeographical discrimination.
Indonesian Trade Minister Tom Lembong said the e-WTP proposed by Jack Ma reflected theshortcomings of the current world free trade regime and it might play a part in solving tradeprotectionism.
Ma said the new platform will not replace the WTO, but rather, complement the existing freetrade 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 theInternet Age is much faster than in the past when free trade talks could take years toconclude. 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 AlibabaGroup, led by Ma, is headquartered.
Long said the stakeholders, including businesses, governments and civil society should beincluded in the creation of the e-WTP. Multilateral organizations have done some ground workto formulate global rules for e-commerce, but that the government still has a role to play, withthe 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 likethe WTO, he said.
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