Ma to G20: ‘Tear down this wall!’

Regulations and protectionist trade policies are killing small business, according to Alibaba Group Executive Chairman Jack Ma, who spoke at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum last week, calling for a removal of trade policies that hinder global commerce.

In most countries, Ma said, small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) contribute “more than 50 percent of GDP and an even higher percentage of employment. Over the past 20 or 30 years, financial systems were designed for the 20 percent of companies that are big multinationals, leaving 80 percent of businesses with no space to grow.”

To level the playing field, Ma is urging G20 nations to set up “digital free-trade zones” so that smaller businesses are able to bypass trade regulations. The current economic rules, Ma contended, favor large businesses that are able to navigate “obstacles such as complex regulations and market-entry regimes.”

Businesses with these trade zones could sell to consumers in another without paying import duties and contending with lengthy customs clearance. “Imagine if SMEs could buy and sell products anywhere in the world with mobile phones and PCs,” he said.

Speaking during an appearance at the forum, China’s most notable internet entrepreneur accused the World Trade Organization (WTO) of failing to, “make progress for many years because of conflicts among member governments and multinational corporations, many pushing protectionist trade agendas.” In response, Ma advocated for the establishment of an Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP). This web-based organization of small businesses could even serve as a successor to the WTO.

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