MELBOURNE — Chinese tech billionaire Jack Ma made headlines last month for visiting Donald Trump and announcing his company Alibaba would help create one million jobs for the United States.
On Saturday in Australia, he warned in no uncertain terms that a retreat from globalisation would only result in trouble.
“If trade stops, war starts,” said Ma, in Melbourne to launch Alibaba’s Australia and New Zealand headquarters.
“We have to actively prove that trade helps people to communicate. And we should have fair trade, transparent trade, inclusive trade.”
Ma said that a globalised economy was more than just transactions of money and goods.
“Trade is about trade of values. Trade of culture,” he said, adding that he felt a personal responsibility to fly more than 100,000km in the past month to promote global commerce.
Ma said that he had “a wonderful discussion” with Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull on Friday to discuss the possibility of Alibaba collaborating with the government to create a regional “e-hub” — a trade zone that would allow for freer online commerce with less border bureaucracy to deal with.
“Most of the free trade zones in the past 20 years are designed for big companies,” he said.
“If Australia, New Zealand and other countries can create a free trade zone in the form of an e-hub for small businesses, they can work like the big companies – with 24 hours clearance, better tariffs and quicker [border] inspections. That could help a lot of small businesses.”
Although Turnbull was slated to attend, he was absent at the Melbourne launch and was represented by the federal innovation minister Arthur Sinodinos. Among the 350-strong crowd of business and political leaders at the event were Victorian premier Daniel Andrews and New Zealand economic development minister Simon Bridges.
The journalist travelled to Melbourne courtesy of Alibaba.