Chinese technology billionaire Jack Ma has rescinded his offer to create 1 million new jobs in the United States, saying it is no longer possible with the escalation of trade disputes between the world's two biggest economies.
The Alibaba chief made the U.S. jobs pledge to then-President-elect Donald Trump in January 2017 at Trump Tower in New York, just before Trump assumed power. The prospective U.S. leader declared, "Jack and I are going to do some great things."
But in an interview published late Wednesday by Xinhua, China's official news agency, Ma said tit-for-tat tariffs imposed by Washington and Beijing, including new levies this week on billions of dollars of trade between China and the U.S., have scuttled his investment plans in the U.S..
"This promise was on the basis of friendly China-U.S. cooperation and reasonable bilateral trade relations, but the current situation has already destroyed that basis," Ma said. "This promise can't be completed."
Trump this week said he was imposing a 10 percent tariff on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports, with Beijing immediately responding by targeting $60 billion worth of U.S. imports with 5 to 10 percent taxes.
As part of its 1 million jobs pledge, Alibaba, a massive online shopping site, had not planned to build factories or customer product fulfillment centers in the U.S. Rather, it had hoped to boost trade by helping small U.S. businesses sell their products in China and elsewhere in Asia.
Alibaba held a conference in the Midwest city of Detroit last year to encourage small U.S. businesses and farms to sell their products in China through Alibaba's online portals.
The 54-year-old Ma said in the interview that Alibaba "will not stop promoting the healthy development of China-U.S. trade."
But he told investors earlier this week that the trade disputes between the two countries could last for 20 years.
"It's going to last long, it's going to be a mess," Ma said. "Trade is not a weapon and cannot be used for wars. Trade should be the propeller of peace."
Instead, Ma said Alibaba would focus on business opportunities in Europe, South America, Russia and Africa.