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Business trends

Japan's mom-and-pop shops gain global e-commerce platform

Trade initiative will link to sites in 18 foreign markets

The platform operators will negotiate and complete purchases in Japan. Currently, seller businesses must pay to list their offerings on third-party marketplaces.

TOKYO -- Japan will help smaller domestic companies sell their products in 18 markets abroad, offering them free access to e-commerce sites in regions including Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the Americas.

The Japan External Trade Organization will set up the framework to promote exports by small and midsize companies, capitalizing on the rising popularity of Japanese products around the world. A total of 24 e-commerce site operators from Japan and abroad will sell goods under the program starting this summer.

Sellers will be asked to provide items chosen by the platform operator. The operators will negotiate and complete purchases in Japan. Currently, seller businesses must pay to list their offerings on third-party marketplaces. The initiative eliminates the fee, thus lowering costs and helping exports.

The global market for cross-border e-commerce is projected to grow to $994 billion in 2020, up from $530 billion in 2017, according to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. The JETRO program will allow even small Japanese companies to ride the wave of international e-commerce.

Japan's Rakuten will set up in September a dedicated section on its e-commerce site to sell Japanese foods under the program, according to JETRO. China's Alibaba Group Holding and JD.com will also take part, as will Xiaohongshu, a social media and e-commerce platform also known as Red and the Instagram of China. Japan Post already works with Red. Popular Japanese items like cosmetics and baby goods will be marketed in China through the initiative.

Walmart group unit Seiyu, which operates supermarkets in Japan, will participate, along with British online supermarket operator Ocado, a beauty goods e-commerce platform based in Kuwait, and a site in Chile. JETRO will report sales data to the seller businesses to help them with marketing strategies.

Singaporean online supermarket operator Redmart set up a section on its website in November to try out the program. A total of 170 Japanese businesses applied to sell 700 products there, and 200 products from 40 companies actually made it on the site. For some seller companies, it was their first export opportunity.

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