Alibaba chair Jack Ma. Picture: BLOOMBERG
Alibaba chair Jack Ma. Picture: BLOOMBERG

Bengaluru/San Francisco/Beijing — Alibaba chairman Jack Ma says the company can no longer meet its promise to create 1-million jobs in the US due to US-China trade tensions, Chinese news agency Xinhua has reported.

Ma has already warned that the trade war between the world’s two largest economies could last decades and that China should focus exports on the "Silk Road" trade route, citing Africa, Southeast Asia and Europe.

Ma met US President Donald Trump two years ago and laid out the Chinese e-commerce giant’s plan to bring 1-million small US businesses on to its platform to sell to Chinese consumers over the next five years.

"This commitment," Ma told Xinhua, "is based on friendly China-US co-operation and the rational and objective premise of bilateral trade. The current situation has already destroyed the original premise. There is no way to deliver the promise."

Tmall and Taobao

While Ma has not detailed how he would add those jobs, he had said he wanted to encourage American small businesses to sell on Alibaba marketplace Tmall and Taobao, reasoning that every new business that joined the platform would have to hire a person to manage the extra sales.

Investors seemed unfazed by Ma’s comments, with Alibaba shares closing up 3.8% on Wednesday. They have declined 5.7% so far in 2018, including those gains.

Trump on Monday imposed 10% tariffs on about $200bn worth of imports from China, and threatened duties on about $267bn more if China retaliated.

China responded a day later with tariffs on about $60bn worth of US goods as planned, but reduced the level of tariffs it will collect on the products.

Ma’s latest comments come after others he made about the escalating trade skirmish and show his support for Beijing’s stance on how additional tariffs will affect businesses and the country’s One Belt One Road foreign policy initiative.

"The US likes competition, China likes harmony, they’re two different cultures," Ma said at an investor conference in Shanghai on Tuesday.

Ma, expected to step down as Alibaba chairman in a year, predicted on Tuesday that trade frictions would lead to "a mess" for all parties involved.