Jan. 26, 2018 – At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Jack Ma stressed the importance of maintaining globalization and free trade. Despite waves of protectionism in some of the world’s biggest economic powerhouses, Jack Ma proclaimed, “When trade stops, war starts.”
“It’s so easy to launch a trade war, but it’s so difficult to stop the disaster of this war,” Ma said during a panel discussion on Wednesday entitled, “Enabling eCommerce: Small Enterprises, Global Players,” which emphasized the need to bring small businesses from their local economies into the global economy. “Don’t use trade as a weapon, use trade as a solution to solve problems.”
Jack Ma’s appeal follows a series of Chinese acquisitions vetoed by the U.S. in recent months. Ma dropped his bid to purchase MoneyGram for $1.2 billion after it failed to gain approval from the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment. Chinese-backed firm Canyon Bridge Capital Partners attempt to buy a U.S. chipmaker was also blocked. Speaking alongside the WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo, Ma stressed that “cross-border trade, especially via the internet, is the future, not protectionism”.
“In the future, no matter if you like it or you don’t like it, we will enable every young person and small business to buy globally, sell globally, and deliver globally, pay globally, and travel globally,” said Ma.
While Ma encouraged countries to double down on policies that support free trade, he’s also taken matters into his own hands. Last year, he created the Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP), an international organization of stakeholders that aim to develop best practices and simplify regulations, thereby lowering barriers to entry to new markets. The eWTP concept has support from both the WTO and the G2o summit. In November, Malaysia became the first country to launch an eWTP hub outside of China.
“Governments are learning, people are learning, entrepreneurs are learning, when there is a demand, there is a way,” Ma said. “So I think government should not think about how to regulate.”
In his much-awaited speech, Azevedo of the WTO elaborated Ma’s thesis, asking for “leaner regulations so small businesses can enjoy the benefits of globalization”. With this public appearance, Jack Ma has become the spokesman of a thought dear to the current Chinese leadership: no one will benefit from a commercial war. In a twist to the oft-thought narrative, has China become the world’s greatest champion of free market capitalism?