Austrade and Alibaba agreement to help Aussie SMEs expand into China

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Australian small and medium sized retailers looking to sell in China will now find it easier, thanks to a new strategic collaboration agreement between Austrade and Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.

Alibaba will be opening an office in Melbourne and has signed an agreement with the Australian Trade and Investment Commission to strengthen trade opportunities across China and Australia. They are also launching a promotional channel for Australian companies on the video platform youku.com. The deal was witnessed by Malcolm Turnbull and Alibaba founder Jack Ma at the company’s head office in Hangzhou.

Ma expressed that the agreement will foster closer cooperation between the countries.

“This agreement provides a new framework to ensure more businesses, especially small and medium enterprises, can benefit through the partnership between Austrade and Alibaba. Together we can all work jointly to support Australian jobs and shape a new future for many people and businesses through the cooperation forged today,” he said.

Austrade’s Senior Trade Commissioner in China, Michael Clifton, said the strategic cooperation would help introduce new brands to Alibaba’s 434 million online shoppers.

“It will allow more Chinese consumers to enjoy easy access to a wider variety of Australia’s premium products and fresh produce,” Mr Clifton said.

“Online delivery of imported fresh food in China is becoming increasingly viable as a result of improvements in last-mile cold chain logistics.

“This partnership also opens the door to future cooperation in some of Australia’s priority industries, including emerging digital service delivery areas such as e-health, financial services, sporting event management and assisting innovative startup companies.”

In supporting these businesses, Maggie Zhou, managing director of Alibaba Group in Australia and New Zealand, said Alibaba will be providing a dedicated helpdesk to source Australian products, with the company also set to develop and deliver export development programs in conjunction with Austrade.

“Our local team will be dedicated to providing businesses the information and tools they need to advance their international growth,” she said.

According to Alibaba, Australia currently ranks fourth in sales volume behind the US, Japan, and Korea on Alibaba’s Tmall Global platform, which allows foreign companies to sell directly to Chinese consumers. The Tmall platform is a good place to be, with sales rising by 68 percent in the last financial year to exceed $170 billion.

The company added that the majority of Australian products sold online in China are vitamins and supplements, dairy items, breakfast cereals, and beauty products.

Though Alibaba will look to promote a range of Australian businesses and industries, through the collaboration with Austrade the company will introduce an annual ‘Australian Fresh Food Week’ sales promotion and educational event on Tmall Fresh, the platform’s fresh food channel.

The agreement comes at a time when Australian business interests in China and vice versa have never been stronger. In April this year Turnbull and over 1,000 Australian business leaders representing largely the startup and SME spaces landed in China for Austrade’s Australia Week in China, an event looking to help businesses explore opportunities in Asia.

More and more are taking up the opportunities: Alibaba reported in July that there are over 1,300 Australian brands on Tmall and Tmall Global, 80 percent of which entered the Chinese market for the first time through these platforms.

Some of these have been aided through partnerships with other Australian organisations; Australia Post partnered with Tmall two years ago in a deal that has allowed local businesses to sell to China through Australia Post’s own Tmall storefront, auspost.tmall.hk.

Australia Post then earlier this year signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Victorian Government to help identify Victorian businesses that would be well suited to joining its Tmall storefront.

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