Insurance · 18 November 2015

Alibaba’s Jack Ma: We need a WTO 2.0 to support small businesses or it will be a disaster

Founder and executive chairman of the Alibaba Group, Jack Ma
Founder and executive chairman of the Alibaba Group, Jack Ma

Alibaba’s founder believes there should be a global body which supports small businesses in a similar way to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Jack Ma said a WTO 2.0 would be crucial in helping the “small guys” develop using innovations and technologies.

“In the past 20 years, WTO did for big companies. In the next 20 years, we should use WTO to support small guys because if we cannot change it, it will be a disaster for everybody. Small guys are the most innovative companies,” Ma said.

Speaking at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit, Ma pushed for “something that will really help the small guys”, with more than ten million small firms worldwide.

“No matter what country you are from, or what size your company is, trade is freedom, a human right, and not to be used as a tool against an economy,” he said.

“Globalisation really helped pump up the global economy. It helped the big companies and developed nations, but the developing nations and small guys did not benefit enough from globalisation,” Ma added.

He also wants to build the infrastructure of payment online to overcome difficulties faced by regulations across governments.

“Let’s do it online first. Today, our sales in China this year is $500bn. It’s almost the same size as Walmart and that’s mainly in China. If we had a negotiation with all the governments, this will go nowhere because they will never agree with each other,” he said.

Ma’s Alibaba group established its business as an online and mobile commerce firm providing online marketplaces in retail and wholesale trade. He advised small business owners to build their firms online first, using his own company as an example.

Ma also discussed the success of China’s Singles Day sales, saying Alibaba earned US $14.5bn on the day alone, with 45m people purchasing from their phones, he said the rise in people shopping via mobile was down to small businesses across the world.

Some 125m people shop using their mobile phones every day, a number Ma said was “unimaginable 15 years ago”.

Ma also pointed to the importance of focusing on the internet generation and challenged entrepreneurs to focus on this demographic by thinking about how they can change the way their businesses work to meet the needs of the post-millennial.

He added that young people “make business based on technology, innovation, and based on the things they order”.


Last month, Ma was appointed as a business advisor to David Cameron, with a particular focus on small business exports and how the UK’s small firms could access Chinese markets.

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Rebecca is a reporter for Business Advice. Prior to this, she worked with a range of tech, advertising, media and digital clients at Propeller PR and did freelance work for The Telegraph.


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