Alibaba Chairman Jack Ma on Wednesday called on governments to eliminate duties on any trades under $1 million, as part of what he termed a Third World War to fight poverty and other ills. He said there should be an agreement similar to what created the World Trade Organization (WTO) except that it should be Internet-based and focused on small businesses.
"Trade is a freedom, trade is a human right," Ma said at the APEC CEO Summit in Manila. "We think we should build up a new E-WTO or WTO 2.0. The past 20 years WTO helped big companies. The next 20 years we should use E-WTO to support the small guys. The small guys are the most innovative companies."
Ma said that Alibaba, China's biggest e-commerce company, is what enables handicrafts makers in Africa to sell to customers in China. He said it is the third big technological change in about 100 years, following factories and companies, and could do more than enable trade.
"We should have a Third World War against poverty, climate change and disease."
E-WTO should be designed by businessmen, according to Ma.
"The WTO was an agreement between governments," he said. "I think a real trade treaty should be an agreement of business. Business agrees, government follows. If the governments agree [first], because of political reasons, because the governments hate each other, all the business goes nowhere. That's why we've been waiting for Doha Round for so many [years]. When I was a boy I heard about WTO. Now I'm still waiting for the results."
The Doha Round are the negotiations among WTO countries to further lower trade barriers. They started in 2001.
Ma said Alibaba reached $500 billion of transactions per year because it skirts governments.
"If we had a negotiation with all governments this will go nowhere because they will never agree with each other. Because we didn't negotiate with them, we made this thing happen," Ma said.