DAVOS (BLOOMBERG) - Alibaba Group Chairman Jack Ma said that a trade war between the US and China would spell disaster for the world, and that he'd do anything in his power to prevent it from happening.
"I think that China and the US should never have a trade war, will never have a trade war, and I think we should give President-elect Donald Trump some time - he's open-minded, he's listening," Mr Ma said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
The consequences of a trade war between the world's largest and second-largest economies would be so grave that Mr Ma said he'd even sacrifice his own company if that would prevent such a conflict.
Mr Trump has promised to impose stiff tariffs on nations like China and Mexico that he deems have an unfair advantage over the US. He has pressured US companies to keep and create jobs in the country and has criticised American businesses that have operations abroad, threatening punitive import tariffs, which could lead other countries to retaliate with their own tariffs, sparking a global trade war.
Alibaba has a large part of its business tied to the US, giving it a strong incentive to avoid a situation in which Mr Trump puts his campaign rhetoric into practice. Higher tariffs would depress Alibaba's sales to US consumers and ensuing trade disputes could hurt sales on Alibaba's Tmall platform, through which US and international brands sell to Chinese consumers.
Mr Ma said he and Mr Trump didn't specifically discuss trade earlier this month when the two met in New York, or Mr Trump's labeling of China as a currency manipulator, or the US losing jobs to countries like China.
"In America there is freedom of speech so he can say whatever he wants," the Chinese billionaire said. "I respect and understand, but of course I have my views."
Mr Ma also defended Alibaba's efforts to counter piracy on its sites after being recently put back on the list of "Notorious Markets" compiled by the US Office of the Trade Representative. Alibaba argued at the time that it's doing all it can to combat fakes and suggested that the designation could have been influenced by politics.
"Fighting against fake products is a war against human greediness," Mr Ma said at Davos. "It's not easy and you can't finish it," he said. "Whether people criticise me, criticise us, the most important is that we are happy about the progress we've made."