Najib visits Alibaba HQ, seeks to tap expertise of retail giant

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak with Alibaba executive chairman Jack Ma at the company's headquarters in Hangzhou yesterday. Datuk Seri Najib wrote on his Facebook page later that he was impressed with the achievements of the Chinese online gian
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak with Alibaba executive chairman Jack Ma at the company's headquarters in Hangzhou yesterday. Datuk Seri Najib wrote on his Facebook page later that he was impressed with the achievements of the Chinese online giant, the world's largest retailer.PHOTO: NAJIB RAZAK / FACEBOOK

HANGZHOU • Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak visited the headquarters of the Alibaba Group in Hangzhou yesterday, voicing his eagerness to tap the expertise of the world's largest retailer.

Datuk Seri Najib, who is on a five-day visit to China, later flew to Beijing for meetings with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang. He will also be attending the two-day Belt and Road Forum that starts tomorrow.

In Hangzhou, Mr Najib also witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Malaysia Digital Economy Corp, the Hangzhou municipal government and Alibaba to kick-start the Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ) project in Kuala Lumpur.

The DFTZ, which will be located beside Kuala Lumpur International Airport, will provide physical and virtual facilities for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to conduct cross-border e-commerce activities.

Its promoters see the creation of warehousing facilities, offices and services involving cashless payments to help Malaysian SMEs expand e-commerce in South-east Asia. Malaysia's central bank has already approved the use of Alipay, Alibaba's payment system, by six major banks. No investment value of the DFTZ has been announced.

Mr Najib's visit to Alibaba's headquarters was at the invitation of its founder and executive chairman Jack Ma, who launched the DFTZ in Kuala Lumpur in March.

The Prime Minister was given a personal tour of the sprawling Alibaba complex by Mr Ma, who is also the digital economy adviser to the Malaysian government.

In a post on his Facebook page, Mr Najib said the DFTZ could definitely learn from China's e-trade and Alibaba's achievements.

"I am impressed with Alibaba's achievements. In just 13 years, the company's transactions have reached three trillion yuan or close to RM1.9 trillion (S$615 billion). During the Global Shopping Festival last year, Alibaba processed a peak of 175,000 orders per second."

He also said that with the DFTZ, "the ecosystem of SMEs and entrepreneurship will change and be more inclusive".

The DFTZ will have a satellite hub known as Kuala Lumpur Internet City (KLIC), where regional Internet-related shops are located.

KLIC will be located in Bandar Malaysia - a new township on the outskirts of downtown Kuala Lumpur that will house the terminus of the planned high-speed rail link between Singapore and Malaysia.

The Bandar Malaysia project is another big item on Mr Najib's agenda in China. He is expected to discuss the project with top Chinese officials, after Putrajaya last week aborted a deal involving Malaysia's Iskandar Waterfront Holdings and China Railway Engineering Corp. Mr Najib is expected to discuss his plan to bring a new player, the Dalian Wanda Group, from China into the Bandar Malaysia development.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 13, 2017, with the headline 'Najib visits Alibaba HQ, seeks to tap expertise of retail giant'. Print Edition | Subscribe