• Alibaba founder and executive chairman Jack Ma.

Alibaba founder and executive chairman Jack Ma. (Photo : Getty Images News)

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba opened its first office in Melbourne as it firmly eyes Australian and New Zealand as a source of "high-quality products and services that China will not be able to supply alone."

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Its founder and executive chairman Jack Ma said that as China moved from exporting to importing, it presented enormous opportunity due to huge consumption with a middle class expected to swell to close to 500 million in the next 15 years.

Ma also expressed his enthusiasm for the region by calling its clean environment as its next "gold mine" during Alibaba's Australian launch on Saturday. He said that due to China's polluted environment, a lot of things needed to be imported.

There is a high demand from people in China for fresh air and Australia has bottled up to $1 million worth of air in aerosol cans that are sold for about $25.

The Melbourne office will support the 1,300 Australian and 400 New Zealand businesses, many of which entered China for the first time selling on Alibaba's online retail platforms.

It also serves to attract new merchants.

It also intends on building the entire operating infrastructure, which includes online payments and logistics and cloud computing, according to Maggie Zhou, managing director of Alibaba's Melbourne office.

However, executive director of the Australian Retailers Association, Russell Zimmerman, warned that Alibaba would add pressure on Australian retailers' ability to compete.

Before attending the opening ceremony, Ma had a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Sydney to discuss the Alibaba executive chairman's e-World Trade Platform project, which helps small and medium enterprises penetrate the global economy.

Ma also donated $20 million for a scholarship program at the University of Newcastle and signed a memorandum of understanding to expose Australia Post, a state-run logistics firm, to Southeast Asia's e-commerce market.