August 24, 2018 / 8:36 PM / 3 months ago

Mexico government seeking companies for Alibaba e-commerce deal

MEXICO CITY, Aug 24 (Reuters) - Nearly a year after Mexico’s government began recruiting local exporters to sell avocados, tequila and other goods wholesale with Alibaba, China’s biggest e-commerce site, the trade body responsible still needs to sign up dozens more to meet its goal.

Twenty-four companies are now approved to export to businesses in China and other countries as paying members on business-to-business platform Alibaba.com, said Carlos Alvarez, a project coordinator at government trade and investment group Promexico, in an interview.

The Mexican government signed a deal with Alibaba last September to help small- and mid-sized businesses enter Mexico’s nascent e-commerce industry alongside mega players including Wal-Mart de Mexico and Amazon Inc.

Part of Promexico’s work is convincing companies that gaining access to Alibaba is worth taking on complex logistics and high shipping and insurance costs, Alvarez said.

“They’re scared of coming because it’s expensive. But once they’re there, they can take off,” he said.

Meanwhile, Alibaba is waiting for a total of 100 Mexican vendors before launching on its wholesale platform a country-specific site known as a “pavilion” that would showcase Mexican products on a single webpage, he said.

Unfamiliarity among Mexican businesses with Alibaba’s wholesale platform and e-commerce in general have been other barriers, an Alibaba spokeswoman said, as well as seller membership costs. The company offered a half-price promotion from November 2017 to March 2018.

“Alibaba is committed to ... helping them participate in global trade through e-commerce and the use of technology,” the company said a statement.

Promexico offers resources to cover the rest of membership costs, and Alvarez said the group is negotiating with Alibaba to renew the promotion.

A webpage dedicated to Mexico would be Alibaba’s first to focus on Latin America and would join pages for 17 other countries, including the United States, India and Japan.

“They want the Mexico pavilion because they know that Mexico has products of quality, and products that distinguish it,” Alvarez said, naming leather cowboy boots, tequila and mezcal liquors, cactus cooking ingredients and avocado-based cosmetics and soaps as examples of high-demand items in China.

Just as coveted are avocados that can be wrapped with shiny bows and given as gifts, Alvarez said.

“The avocado is the star in China,” he said.

Alibaba reported its strongest-ever quarterly revenue growth on Thursday, partially boosted by an increase in paying members on its wholesale platform. (Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Richard Chang)

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