Are the Netherlands stealing Alibaba from Belgium?

The announcement this summer that Alibaba might open a distribution centre in Liège, Belgium, was met with a lot of jealousy in the Netherlands. Prime Minister Mark Rutte has now received founder Jack Ma personally in order to try to change his mind.


At stake: fifty football fields of warehouse

In August, Alibaba's CEO Jack Ma, president Global Business Angel Zhao and General Manager Europe Terry von Bibra personally went to talk with Rutte, who wants the Chinese e-commerce giant to move its planned enormous warehouse that should deliver European parcels faster. Currently that warehouse of 380,000 sqm (some fifty football fields) is planned to be built in the Belgian city of Liège, near the borders with the Netherlands and Germany, but Alibaba has not yet definitively confirmed that.


The Netherlands therefore saw the opportunity to win the warehouse for itself. According to the Financieele Dagblad, Rutte proposed a location in Weert or an area near Maastricht Airport (just over the border from Liège) as alternatives. The offensive seems to have not (yet) succeeded, because when asked, the Chinese company still only mentions Liège as a potential location for the worldwide logistics hubs the company is looking for, alongside Dubai, Hangzhou, Hong Kong and Moscow.


Alibaba wants to open 100 distribution centres within three years, so that it can deliver anywhere in the world within 72 hours. If the first selection round fails for Rutte, he may therefore still be able to make it in a next attempt.