Alibaba's Jack Ma praises Malaysian efficiency at launch of digital free trade zone

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (left) and Alibaba Group founder and executive chairman Jack Ma at the launch of Malaysia's Digital-Free Trade Zone in Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (left) and Alibaba Group founder and executive chairman Jack Ma at the launch of Malaysia's Digital-Free Trade Zone in Kuala Lumpur.PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Alibaba Group founder and executive chairman Jack Ma is impressed by the speed in which Malaysia's Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ) was set up.

"Malaysia is very business-friendly and much more efficient than I thought," he said in a speech on Wednesday (March 22).

Mr Ma said it took only 10 minutes for him and Prime Minister Najib Razak to agree on introducing the DFTZ when they met in China in November last year.

"My team and I thought - is four months possible? We have been discussing it with many European and Asean countries," he said.

Mr Ma, who was appointed as the Malaysian Government's digital economy adviser, also announced that the Alibaba Group will set up an "e-hub" in Kuala Lumpur, among a slew of other efforts, to promote the development of the local digital economy.

Mr Ma said the hub would empower young entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises that want to venture out of the country.

Drawing reference to the Silk Road, which he referred to as the "first globalisation", Mr Ma said the export of China's tea leaves were possible as they were placed in containers made of tin sourced from Malaysia.

"Without Malaysia, the Silk Road would not have been as successful as Malaysia's tin protected the quality of Chinese tea in the 18th century.

"I am a strong believer of globalisation. It is still a baby, but we should give it another 20 to 30 years, making it more inclusive and getting more people involved," he said.

At the launch of the DFTZ, the Alibaba Group and its affiliates exchanged memorandums of understanding with Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), Malaysia Airports Holdings, CIMB and Maybank.

As part of the DFTZ, the group's regional e-commerce and logistics hub will be located at the KLIA Aeropolis, which will operate out of the existing 17.5ha Low Cost Carrier Terminal  (LCCT) site. 

It is expected to be rolled out by year-end, with a formal launch by the end of 2019.

The "e-hub", the group's first outside of China, will function as a centralised customs clearance, warehousing and fulfilment facility for Malaysia and nearby countries.