Saturday 3 December 2016

Alibaba's Ma calls for a 'third world war' to combat poverty and climate change

Lulu Yilun Chen

Published 19/11/2015 | 02:30

US President Barack Obama and the chairman of e-commerce giant Alibaba, Jack Ma (R), shake hands as they take part in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO summit in Manila. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
US President Barack Obama and the chairman of e-commerce giant Alibaba, Jack Ma (R), shake hands as they take part in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO summit in Manila. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. co-founder Jack Ma urged business leaders yesterday to help poorer nations and smaller businesses benefit from global trade, and he called for "a third world war" to eradicate poverty, climate change and disease.

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Speaking at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Manila, the chairman of China's biggest e-commerce company touted his vision for a new trade agreement, dubbed "e-WTO" or "WTO 2.0", formulated without considering political interests.

One way to help "the small guy" would be to exclude duties on goods sold by companies with less than €1m of annual revenue, Ma said during a presentation. "Trade is a freedom, trade is a human right," Ma said.

"Trade should not be used as a tool against other nations."

China's second-richest man also discussed climate change with US President Barack Obama and a Philippine engineer who developed a lamp fuelled by salt water. Ma is a proponent of environmental awareness in China

Ma said he will take up an offer from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates to invest in clean energy technology.

Ma has pledged to devote 0.3pc of his company's revenue, which came to about $12bn in the last fiscal year, towards combating climate change. Alibaba also will promote startups focused on preventing climate change, he told Obama.

"Where is the opportunity? The opportunity always lies where people worry," he said.

Ma reiterated his vision for helping small businesses by enabling e-commerce, which in turn furthers his company's ambitions to expand outside China. "The businesses agree, the governments follow," he said. "If the governments agree on a business treaty because of political reasons, because the governments hate each other, all the businesses go nowhere."

Ma also described his shock at seeing violent protests against globalisation at the World Economic Forum in 2001, though he said developing countries hadn't benefited enough from global commerce. While the World Trade Organization has buoyed larger companies in the past 20 years, the next decades should be used to empower "the small guys," he said.

"If we cannot change it, it will be disastrous for everyone," Ma said. "Small guys are the most innovative companies." (Bloomberg)

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