Alibaba raises its game to compete with Amazon

Jack Ma, chairman of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., reacts during a fireside interview at the Viva Technology conference in Paris, France, on Thursday, May 16, 2019. Donald Trump???s latest offensive against China???s Huawei Technologies Co. puts Europe in an even bigger bind over which side to pick, but Macron is holding the line. Photographer: Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg

New York (CNN Business)Alibaba said Tuesday it is opening up the platform, allowing American companies to sell their products to small- and mid-sized business buyers around the world. That will help Alibaba (BABA) better compete with Amazon (AMZN) and Shopify (SHOP), which already have a thriving marketplace for large companies to sell to business customers across the globe. Previously, American businesses could buy only on the platform. Now they can sell to other businesses in the United States, China and elsewhere.

Alibaba, founded by billionaire Jack Ma, said Office Depo (ODP)and Robinson Fresh, a produce seller owned by logistics company C.H. Robinson Worldwide, (CHRW)are two of the top US companies taking part in the launch. The so-called B2B industry generated $23.9 trillion in revenue globally in 2016 while e-commerce sales directly to consumers totaled $3.8 trillion that year, according to figures from the United States International Trade Commission. And much of this revenue will be to Chinese businesses.

“Alibaba aims to empower entrepreneurs and help them succeed on their own terms,” said John Caplan, head of North America B2B at Alibaba Group, in a statement Tuesday. In an interview with CNN’s Julia Chatterley, Caplan added that he’s not too concerned about competition with the likes of Amazon, Shopify, and others.

“We think competition is good and we think anything that helps small businesses is good,” Caplan said. “So we are interested in building an ecosystem of relationships and companies that are helping US small businesses be successful.”Opening a Chinese e-commerce platform to American businesses at a time when isolationist economic policies are on the rise may seem surprising. China’s economic slowdown is real, but it’s not just about tariffs But Caplan said he’s not too concerned about US-China trade tensions and a slowing Chinese economy hurting the company.”Small businesses around the world all want the same thing. They want more customers,” he said. Shares of Alibaba rose more than 1% Tuesday. Despite worries about China’s economy and tariffs, the stock is still up nearly 30% this year.

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