Alibaba’s Jack Ma meets with Obama and talks climate change and global trade

November 18, 2015 05:50 PM

(Bloomberg)—Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. co-founder Jack Ma urged business leaders Wednesday 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.

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 1 million euros ($1.06 million) 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 President Barack Obama and a Philippine engineer who developed a lamp fueled by salt water. Ma is a proponent of environmental awareness in China, an increasingly important topic for an expanding middle class worried about standards of living. Ma said he will take up an offer from Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates to invest in clean energy technology.

Climate change

Ma has pledged to devote 0.3% of his company’s revenue, which came to about $12 billion in the last fiscal year, toward 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 globalization when he attended the World Economic Forum in 2001, though he said developing countries hadn’t benefited enough from international 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.”




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