Billionaire Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma called fighting over trade senseless and decried once again a widening conflict between the US and China.
China’s richest person — who warned just last month that a trade war could last two decades — argued it was pointless to target goods because the Asian nation was on its way to becoming a major buyer of foreign products. Indeed, it’s services — such as those on the internet — powering job growth, not old-school manufacturing, the outgoing Alibaba Group Holding, chairman told a business forum Monday.
Ma, whose online commerce empire is China’s largest corporation, has been a vocal opponent of tit-for-tat tariffs imposed on hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of US-Chinese goods. Donald Trump is now exerting pressure on the Asian nation to wind back its $423 billion trade surplus with the world. While the American President has floated the possibility of a deal when he meets his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, in coming weeks, the two countries remain far apart on everything from market access to government support for state-run enterprises.
“Trade war is the most stupid thing in this world,” Ma said at the China International Import Expo in Shanghai. Xi is touting the forum as a major showcase of the country’s purchasing power.
Ma’s comments come as Alibaba is on the verge of kicking off its most important annual shopping event — Singles’ Day on November 11 — an online bargains extravaganza that often has a heavy foreign commerce component.
“It is the greatest challenge for China” to transform itself into an importing nation, Ma said. But that’s also “the greatest opportunity for the world.”
In October, Ma told World Trade Organization delegates that the Geneva-based body has come under threat from Trump’s efforts to recast the international trading system in a way that he says will be more balanced toward the US.