The internet giant Alibaba Group is working with officials in eastern China on an initiative to lower barriers to global trade for small- and medium-sized enterprises via e-commerce on its electronic World Trade Platform, eWTP.

On June 19 the group signed a strategic agreement with the municipal government of Yiwu, a city in eastern China’s Zhejiang province, which is known for manufacturing and exporting small commodities to more than 210 countries and regions across the globe, thepaper.cn reported.

The tie-up will focus on digitizing trade infrastructure and developing additional trade flows for the city, which has an enormous offline market with around 15,000 foreign traders from more than 100 countries stationed.

Yiwu gets a further 400,000 foreigners visiting the city for business every year.

Lin Yi, secretary of the Yiwu Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China, said the agreement with Alibaba would bring together the two biggest markets – online and offline – in Yiwu, so they could work together with SMEs and micro-businesses around the world to create new trade rules.

“While Yiwu brings together buyers from around the world, Alibaba’s platforms also bring together millions of merchants and hundreds of millions of consumers. The synergy of the two ecosystems will create value for our communities of users,” Alibaba Group CEO Daniel Zhang said at the launch ceremony in Yiwu on Wednesday.

The eWTP site was described by Alibaba founder and chairman Jack Ma in 2016 as a digital gateway connecting every country. He said it gives businesses the ability to sell products anywhere in the world.

The benefits of using eWTP hubs include speedy customs clearance, logistics support and minimal tariffs.

Yiwu is the second Chinese city after Hangzhou to be part of the initiative that also has hubs in Malaysia, Belgium and Rwanda, which became the first African nation to join the group’s eWTP in October last year.