“I’d Sacrifice my Own Company”: Chairman’s Plea to Trump

GettyImages-493612437-compressorThe chairman and founder of China’s biggest e-commerce company has pleaded with Donald Trump to avoid sparking a trade war with the world’s second-largest economy, claiming it would be a disaster for both countries and the rest of the world.

“China and the U.S. should never have a trade war, will never have a trade war,” Alibaba’s Jack Ma told the World Economic Form in Davos, Switzerland. “And I think we should give president-elect Donald Trump some time. And he’s open-minded. He’s listening.”

Ma said he would even be prepared to sacrifice his own company to avoid a conflict, while warning that wars were easy to launch but difficult, or almost impossible, to stop.

“China and the U.S. should never have a trade war, will never have a trade war.

“How can you imagine the first largest economy of the world, the second largest economy of the world having a trade war? It’s going to be a disaster for the two countries and for the world. If we can do something to stop it, do anything to stop it.”

China is emerging as a new global champion of cross-border trade, which has fueled its economy’s rapid development via the export of cheap manufactured goods and labor. Now, as China tilts toward driving growth through domestic consumption, President Xi Jingping this week told the forum that it could import $8 trillion worth of goods over the next five years.

Populist leaders like Trump have fed off public disillusionment with globalization, which has claimed many low-skilled American jobs. Ma argued the problem isn’t so much with free trade, but the way its benefits have been distributed.

He claimed that U.S. income inequality had more do to with the country’s management of its own vast riches–including concentrating capital on Wall Street and spending trillions of dollars on foreign wars—than the outsourcing of low-skilled jobs to China. “In the past 30 years America had 13 wars, spending $14.2 trillion. What if they spent a part of that money on building infrastructure, helping the white-collars and blue-collars.”

At least here, he seemed to find some common ground with Trump, who came to power with the promise of investing more in domestic American production. “So it’s not the other countries stealing jobs from you guys, it is your strategy. You don’t distribute the money in a proper way,” Ma said.

Ma is among 13 senior Chinese business leaders who have this week met with their American counterparts at Davos.

According to Lui Hualong, the chairman of high-speed train-maker CRRC, there was a common desire to work together, no matter what happens in Washington. “We all expressed confidence over future development, cooperation and globalization,” Hualong said. “No matter how things are changing, it’s temporary and eventually enterprises will work with each other, just as nations will.”

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Ross Kelly
Ross Kelly is a London-based business journalist. He has been a staff correspondent or editor at The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo Finance and the Australian Associated Press.

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