Alibaba will let American companies sell on its site

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Alibaba said it is opening up the Alibaba.com platform, allowing American companies to sell their products to small- and mid-sized business buyers around the world.

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Alibaba said Tuesday it is opening up the Alibaba.com platform, allowing American companies to sell their products to small- and mid-sized business buyers around the world. That will help Alibaba better compete with Amazon and Shopify, 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 Alibaba.com platform. Now they can sell to other businesses in the United States, China and elsewhere.

Alibaba, founded by billionaire Jack Ma, said Office Depot and Robinson Fresh, a produce seller owned by logistics company C.H. Robinson Worldwide, 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. But Caplan said he’s not too concerned about US-China trade tensions and a slowing Chinese economy hurting the company. He said Alibaba’s new B2B offering will allow US companies to reach Chinese customers more efficiently by targeting small businesses directly in China.

“Small businesses around the world all want the same thing. They want more customers,” he said, adding that “the Chinese consumer continues to have an insatiable appetite for US products and services, and we don’t see that slowing down in any way.”

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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