• Jack Ma at the 2017 China Green Companies Summit

Jack Ma at the 2017 China Green Companies Summit (Photo : Getty Images)

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group is leveraging on China's Belt and Road initiative to bring small and medium enterprises (SMEs) closer to global trade, enhancing the country's ability to expand global trade for small businesses, China Daily reported.

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On the sidelines of the 2017 China Green Companies Summit in Henan Province, Canadian ambassador to China John McCallum said on Sunday, April 23, that Alibaba is co-hosting a trade fair with small merchants from Canada and China, as part of its efforts to gain presence in North America.

Jack Ma, Alibaba's executive chairman, said during the meeting that the move is also part of a broader goal to "expand in line with the Belt and Road Initiative."

"We have plans for Canada, India and Japan, and we have plans for the Belt and Road Initiative," Ma said, as he urged policymakers and business leaders to create new rules and laws to strengthen trade and development.

In Malaysia, small firms are likely to benefit from Alibaba's virtual hub as the company helps to build the country's e-commerce infrastructure to boost connectivity in the region.

Another e-commerce hub is planned in Thailand.

In countries along the Belt and Road route, Ant Financial, Alibaba's payment affiliate, plans to create mobile payment services similar to Alipay's.

"Small and medium-sized enterprises contribute to 95 percent of global economic growth. Through the initiative, the private sector can play its part in revisiting and potentially revising rules of world trade through business practices," Wang Jian, an economics professor at the University of International Business and Economics, said.

Alibaba's initiative boosts connectivity and using e-commerce as a channel, SMEs' growth potential is enhanced, according to Zhao Lei, a professor at the Institute for International Strategic Studies at the Central Party School of the Communist Party of China.

Paul Kavanagh, ambassador of Ireland to China, also pointed out the value of the initiative to global cooperation among small businesses.

"It is a very open-minded cooperation initiative that welcomes all partners. It is very flexible, rather than building strict structures and protocols that constrain cooperation," Kavanagh said.