Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (BABA), the Chinese ecommerce company, wants to help U.S. businesses, farmers and entrepreneurs conduct business in China and will hold its first conference in Detroit in June to do exactly that.
Dubbed Gateway 17, the inaugural two-day conference begins June 20 at Detroit's Cobo Center and will help companies explore growth opportunities and ways to reach the millions of Chinese consumers. Alibaba said in a press release the confab is expected to draw more than 1,000 businesses around the country and will include presentations by entrepreneurs including Alibaba Chairman Jack Ma.
Alibaba said that as the incomes of Chinese consumers rise and the middle class in China continues to grow, demand for high-quality products from the U.S. is increasing. “China is an important and viable market for a wide range of products and services. This event will open doors for Michigan businesses, farmers and entrepreneurs by helping them identify and enter into new relationships there,” said Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder in a press release. (See also: Alibaba: Ma Wants Tough Action on Counterfeits.)
600 Million Shoppers
In an open letter, Ma said the Chinese market presents “tremendous opportunities” and that the middle-class population in China is expected to surpass 600 million by 2022, nearly twice the size of the U.S. population. In 2016, China surpassed the U.S. to become the world’s biggest retail market with spending higher than the $4.84 trillion the U.S. saw in 2016. “By next year, China’s online spending will be greater than the rest of the world combined. At Alibaba, we want to help you take advantage of this appetite for consumption through our e-commerce marketplaces,” he wrote. Alibaba’s move to host a conference in the U.S. comes at a time when its core market is starting to become saturated. In response Alibaba has been branching into new markets and different areas.
While there are opportunities for U.S. businesses to make money in China it’s not immediately clear if Alibaba is the one to provide the gateway. After all, the company’s reputation has taken a hit over the amount of fake goods being hawked on its Chinese websites. Alibaba has been aggressively fighting back after landing back on the "notorious market" list in December. It hadn’t been on the list since 2012, but more recently has been the subject of numerous investigations by consumer protection agencies. (See also: Why Alibaba Is on America's 'Notorious' List.)
In recent weeks, Alibaba has been taking actions into own hands, with Ma even slamming the Chinese government for not doing enough. According to a recent statement to Reuters, Alibaba said it reported close to 4,500 counterfeit operations to local authorities in China last year, but that resulted in only 33 convictions with many accused counterfeiters only getting probation for their offenses.