Alibaba’s Jack Ma defends free trade ahead of economic talks

World Today

Alibaba founder Jack Ma has renewed his calls for expanding free trade as Chinese and U.S. officials prepare to meet this week.

Ma’s known for turning Alibaba into one of the world’s biggest online marketplaces, but will his input have any influence on the Comprehensive Economic Dialogue? 

CGTN’s Owen Fairclough reports.

Ma has proposed bringing together business leaders from China and the U.S. a day before representatives of their respective governments sit down for the first Comprehensive Economic Dialogue of the Trump administration.

At a U.S. Department of Commerce meeting, Ma pressed his case for a global economy built on the internet and free of trade barriers.

Ma is well aware ‘Made in America’ is a cornerstone of Donald Trump’s presidency. Just this week, President Trump was surrounding himself with American goods at a special White House event.

“We want to build, create, and grow more products in our country using American labor, American goods, and American grit. When we purchase products made in the USA, the profits stay here, the revenue stays here, and the jobs — maybe most importantly of all — they stay right here in the USA,” Trump said.

Free traders have said Trump’s agenda is protectionist. Trump has considered imposing new tariffs on steel and other metal imports in retaliation for what he sees as punitive financial barriers for U.S. exports.

Trump’s also concerned about the growing trade deficit. The U.S. has been importing far more from China than it exports, and has been blamed for both job losses and weaker economic growth.

Although the two sides have resumed trading U.S. beef and Chinese chicken, the U.S. wants greater access to Chinese sectors that have been closely controlled to rectify the trade imbalance.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said trade negotiations are measured in years and months, not days . It’s an indication, perhaps, of how realistic these business leaders are about the progress they can make.