Multi-billion dollar Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba is talking to the Government about setting up a regional logistics hub in New Zealand.
Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones met with top Alibaba officials in Hong Kong last month where the plan was discussed.
The logistics centre would be part of the Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP) – and would help facilitate logistics and the movement of goods.
Alibaba – which is worth close to US$500 billion – has been setting hubs such as these all around the world over the past few years.
Jones said if the project gets the green light to set up in New Zealand, it would likely be a partnership between Alibaba and NZ Post in a more regional centre, such as Palmerston North.
Senior Alibaba officials have been invited to New Zealand to further explore the opportunity and Jones said they would arrive in the country soon.
In a letter to Jones, sent not long after the meeting in Hong Kong, Alibaba senior vice president, and head of corporate finance, Michael Yao said he was keen to explore the idea of establishing an eWTP in New Zealand.
"From our side eWTP, as a global initiative spearheaded by our executive chairman Jack Ma, would present the strongest immediate opportunity for co-operation."
Yao said Alibaba representatives from Australia and New Zealand were keen to develop more of a partnership with the Government.
He said meeting Jones was "a wonderful opportunity to have a frank and open discussion regarding the broader co-operation between New Zealand and Alibaba."
Jones said Alibaba was trying to expand and tap the logistical dollar associated with the growing number of tourists that are originating from China coming through to Australasia.
"They're all buying stuff, they're keen to see if a more sophisticated platform can be developed with NZ Post to expand the trade of goods and services."
He said it would be a good partnership, as NZ Post was going through its own commercial challenges.
"If there is scope for growing the logistics… and fast moving items business [and] if there is anything we can do to effect a better arrangement between NZ Post, that's incredibly important to me," he said.
New Zealand Post chief international business officer Sohail Choudhry said Alibaba was working closely with NZ Trade and Enterprise and NZ Post on a number of different initiatives.
"[This] includes the potential feasibility of ehub and eWTP."
eWTP hubs have already been set up in a number of other countries around the world.
Ma first discussed the idea of an eWTP at the G20 in 2016. He planned on creating a global network of eWTPs and said it would be a modern, electric version of the Silk Road.
In 2017, he launched an e-hub in Malaysia.
At the time, Ma told the South China Morning Post the hub would function as a "centralised customs clearance, warehousing, and fulfilment facility for Malaysia and the region, to deliver faster clearance for imports and exports."
Since then, Alibaba has opened other such hubs around the world, such as in Belgium and Rwanda.
Jones said Alibaba officials were tossing up whether to build the hub in Australia or New Zealand.
"If they end up in Australia, that's their choice. If there is some scope for doing something thing in New Zealand in a provincial city such as Palmerston North with NZ Post – I don't think that's a bad outcome at all."