LIEGE, Belgium, July 9 (Xinhua)-- King Philippe of Belgium paid a visit on Thursday to Liege Airport to thank the staff and its key partners including China's e-commerce giant Alibaba for their efficient distribution of medical supplies to Belgium and across Europe during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the vital role of logistics in supporting Belgium and Europe's economic recovery.
During his visit, King Philippe participated in a roundtable discussion with representatives of key partners of Liege Airport, including Alibaba Group. The King expressed his appreciation for the efficient distribution and logistics capabilities of Alibaba's eWTP (electronic World Trade Platform) hub and Liege Airport, according to a press release from Liege Airport, Alibaba Group and the Wallonia Export-Investment Agency (AWEX), a governmental agency of the Walloon Region of Belgium in charge of promoting foreign trade and attracting foreign investment.
"During this unprecedented crisis, Belgium, and especially Wallonia, played a crucial role as the hub for distributing vital personal protective equipment, including more than 1 billion protective face masks, to the most affected European countries through Liege Airport," said Michel Kempeneers, chief operating officer (COO) Overseas Export - Investment of AWEX.
According to Kempeneers, the rapid mobilization was made possible thanks to existing direct transport lines with China in Belgium which were established as part of Alibaba's eWTP hub at Liege Airport.
"The Alibaba Foundation and the Jack Ma Foundation were able to activate this logistics network quickly and efficiently at the beginning of the crisis to deliver urgently needed donations of PPE, and it was a determining factor in the WHO's choice to place Liege on the map of the world's emergency relief hubs, as underlined today by HM King Philippe during his visit," said Kempeneers.
For Luc Partoune, CEO of Liege Airport, the royal visit is recognition of the key role of the airline industry. "We are very proud that His Majesty the King is visiting our facilities. This pride reflects on our staff and all workers on the site who have stepped up their efforts during the COVID-19 crisis," he said.
James Song, secretary-general of the Globalization Office of Alibaba Group, said that eWTP hubs will continue their efforts in assisting economic recovery in the coming days.
"During this pandemic, our global eWTP hubs have played a significant role in distributing urgently needed medical supplies across the world, including our Belgium hub which has played a critical role in Europe. As countries gradually emerge from the crisis, our eWTP hubs will pivot towards supporting global trade, with a focus on using technology to assist SMEs, in order to assist with the economic recovery," said Song.
The Alibaba Group and the Belgian government established the first eWTP hub in Europe in 2018. Since then, the two sides have worked together on a number of initiatives to promote trade, technology, training and tourism between Belgium and China, including investment to further reinforce Liege Airport as a leading logistics hub in Europe.
During the pandemic, to support the distribution efforts, Alibaba has worked with Belgium Customs to digitize customs clearance procedures and Alibaba's Cainiao Network has increased the number of chartered cargo flights to five per week. Among the European countries that have received donations of medical supplies via the eWTP hub at Liege Airport are Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland, according to the release. Enditem