Australian start-ups and e-health service providers are expected to be among the winners of an expanded agreement between Austrade and Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.
The two signed on to an expansion of their existing “strategic collaboration” in the presence of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Alibaba Group founder and executive chairman Jack Ma.
According to Austrade, the expansion “aims to broaden Alibaba’s existing partnership with Austrade by providing dedicated services for Australian products and leveraging digital content to build brand Australia abroad.”
Initially, the focus will be on digitally marketing Australian produce to China’s growing middle class, but Austrade saw opportunities to help a wide range of businesses get a foothold in one of the world’s largest markets; Alibaba has 434 million online shoppers.
"[This new agreement] will allow more Chinese consumers to enjoy easy access to a wider variety of Australia’s premium products and fresh produce,” Austrade’s senior trade commissioner in China Michael 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 start-up companies.”
Australia currently ranks fourth in sales volume on Tmall Global, Alibaba’s international online platform that allows direct sales to Chinese consumers, behind the United States, Japan and Korea.
To date, the majority of Australian products sold online in China are vitamins and supplements, dairy items, breakfast cereals and beauty products.
The new agreement will create a dedicated promotional channel for Australian companies on youku.com, a video sharing website with 500 million active users.
The channel is expected to “advance the perception of Australian products in the eyes of Chinese consumers”, Alibaba said.
Turnbull said that the tie-up with Alibaba “enables the smallest businesses, the mom-and-dad businesses, in the regional part of Australia to have access to the biggest part of the world”.
“[It’s] something that hitherto only a very large company with enormous resources, with enormous representation would be able to do,” he said.
“It’s a liberating force for small business, and because so many of the services are available on the cloud, again it reduces the cost of business and levels the playing field between the big company and the small company.”
Access to online distribution channels also complements the benefits granted to business by the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, which came into force on 20 December 2015, Clifton said.