Not later than last week, there were still clouds in the sky: Aéroports de Paris Management, a 25% shareholder of Liege Airport having thus a blocking minority and the power to block decisions, opposed the signature of an agreement between the Airport and Alibaba. The French company wanted to protect one of its main clients in Paris, Fedex Express, which also uses Liege as a base.
Apparently, the dust has settled, the differences of opinions have been wiped out, and Liege Airport was allowed to sign a deal that had been negotiated for months, against the competition of mainly Dutch airports. The decision to select Liege as European gateway was announced on 31 May 2018. Liege will be the main logistics hub for Alibaba in Europe, after Hong Kong, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur and Moscow in other parts of the world.
The Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and the Belgium government have reached an agreement to promote inclusive trade under the Electronic World Trade Platform (“eWTP”) initiative, developed by Jack Ma, CEO of Alibaba.
The signature ceremony took place today, 5 December 2018, in the main hall of Liege Airport specially adapted for the event.
Were present at the ceremony: Mr Charles Michel, Prime Minister of Belgium; Mr Kris Peeters, Vice Premier of Belgium; Mr Cao Zhongmin, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China in Belgium; Ms Angel Zhao, Senior Vice President of the Alibaba Group; Me Pierre-Yves Jeholet, Minister of Economy of Wallonia; Mr Luc Partoune, CEO Liege Airport. All of them made a speech emphasising the importance of Liege Airport as a logistics hub in the heart of Europe that will best serve the interests of both China and Belgium. Liege Airport is among the top 10 cargo airports in Europe and the new deal will bring it into the top five.
A drink closed the ceremony.
Alibaba’s logistics subsidiary Cainiao will invest 75 million euros in Liege to build 220,000 m² of hangars. Operations here should start in early 2021.
Aviation24.be had the opportunity to speak with Luc Partoune, who confirmed that ASL Airlines Belgium would be one of the main cargo airlines transporting the Alibaba goods from China to Liege, but also in the opposite direction. Indeed, the new agreement will give the opportunity for Belgian producers to send their products to the large Chinese market. ASL Airlines Belgium already flies routes between Liege and China.
Liege Airport, 5 December 2018
Text and pictures © André Orban