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Alibaba chief pledges to import $200bn in goods over 5 years

Announcement comes a day after Xi Jinping endorses cross-border e-commerce

Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang said the company will use its e-commerce platforms to bring more goods from overseas into China.   © Reuters

SHANGHAI -- Alibaba Group Holding said on Tuesday it will list $200 billion worth of imported goods on its e-commerce platforms from 2019 to 2023 as the government vows to boost imports and open markets while engaged in a trade war with the U.S.

"Globalization is one of Alibaba's most-critical long-term growth strategies," said CEO Daniel Zhang, who announced the plan at the company's Global Import Leadership Summit being held alongside the China International Import Expo here.

Alibaba will buy $40 billion worth of imported goods a year under the plan, or more than 5% of the value of all goods sold through its marketplaces last year, including domestic products, which totaled $768 billion.

Zhang's announcement comes one day after President Xi Jinping encouraged cross-border trade at the expo's opening ceremony. "We will take further steps to lower tariffs, facilitate customs clearance, reduce institutional costs in imports, and step up cross-border e-commerce and other new forms and models of business," the president said.

The e-commerce giant is importing more goods to meet growing Chinese demand for high-quality items. It has set up an organization to purchase goods in Japan and is strengthening product procurement for international online sales.

At the expo, Xi has touted China's buying power by saying it will import over $40 trillion in goods and services in 15 years while vowing to open up the country's markets. The event has also taken on a political tone, as a counterpoint to the protectionist policies of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Panasonic promoted products made in Japan at the China International Import Expo. Panasonic promoted products made in Japan at the China International Import Expo.

On Tuesday, the expo's second day, Chinese food group COFCO signed a memorandum of understanding with Japanese rice company Shinmei and the National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations, among others, to study purchases of polished rice from Japan.

The expo is expected to host over 400,000 buyers and general guests before it concludes Saturday. Local governments have even sent regional trading houses and other companies to the event with purchase targets.

An employee from a trading house in Chongqing said that he came with a quota while visiting Japanese consumer products maker Kao's booth, where he was negotiating a deal for diapers. "Japanese products are good quality and highly trusted by consumers for their safety," he said.

Japanese companies were among the most-visited booths. Panasonic attracted attention for its air purifiers and facial-care devices.

"The number of buyers in attendance is completely different from any other Chinese expo before," said Sadaaki Yokoo, Panasonic's regional head for China and Northeast Asia. "This is a huge business opportunity."

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