Alibaba’s Jack Ma wants a digital China to Europe ‘Silk Road’

Jack Ma has appealed to the G20 to create a digital ‘Silk Road’ trade route between Asia and Europe to speed the passage of goods and cut red tape. This would allow small Chinese retailers to more easily sell to the West and potentially for European retailers to sell to China.

The argument goes that SME retailers make a massive contribution to the economy of most countries as well as providing employment but the regulations and market entry regimes make it difficult almost impossible for small retailers to enter new markets. Only large businesses have the resources to do so.

Jack proposes a new Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP), an Internet based organisation driven by small businesses as a successor to the World Trade Organization. He wants to create a global online trading platform with virtual free trade zones for small businesses. These zones would allow small businesses in one country to sell to consumers in another, without anyone having to pay import duties and with speedy customs clearance.

Speaking in St Petersburg, it’s no accident that Jack proposed Russia to be the stepping stone between China and Europe as the host country for a hub which all goods would flow through.

I do like the suggestion of a world wide trading agreement where small businesses could trade cross border free from customs requirements and import duties and tariffs. I do however wonder if Jack Ma is more interested in getting the free flow of goods from China to the Europe rather than the other way around.

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With everything being made in china, and small Chinese businesses happy to sell an item for a dollar profit, would this not seriously damage retail in the West? If everyone can buy at almost manufacturer cost price doesn't it wipe out the rest of us who import goods to retail at a marked up price?

Ian A • 21st June 2016 •

Yes, yes it does. cost-free international trade means death to any retailer in a high-wage country (ie, us). forget the euro vote, this kind of thing genuinely could bankrupt britain. a nation of shopkeepers with no customers.

james • 21st June 2016 •

The future for british retailers is looking quite blurred? The most prestigious shopping street in Harrogate, two units closing down (one austin reed) and every other shop with 50% sale on at this time of year. Think only jewellers and coffee chains doing well. Rents will have to come down at some point surely or units just sit empty for years. Small businesses being squeezed out by ebay's cassini and large retailers starting to dominate online. Challenging times but wheres there's crisis there is opportunity. (Which I believe is a chinese saying, or at least a mistranslation.)

Ian A • 22nd June 2016 •

If rents come down too far, then owners will not get a return on their investment, rather like shopkeepers (And even online sellers) continually dropping prices to as near cost as possible. Eventually this would surely lead to property prices dropping and even more of our infrastructure bought up by foreign companies who don't have to worry about minimum wages, workers' rights etc We will eventually have to close our borders (Either UK or European) to those countries who don't have the same business model as we do, or else face mass redundancies, then civil unrest and so on. I've watched a few documentary type programmes based on this sort of thing and it is certainly interesting stuff, even if none of us is able to accurately predict what will really happen.

Sam O'levski • 22nd June 2016 •

high st small business are squeezed out by low rent. low tax. and zero business rated charities, excessive bureaucracy health & safety , employment laws,

TINKER • 22nd June 2016 •