Business

Alibaba boss Jack Ma in US charm offensive

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Media captionJack Ma says he wants more sales to come from outside China

The boss of the Chinese internet firm Alibaba, Jack Ma, has told US businesses that it needs more American products for China.

In a speech in New York, he said his company wanted to help small US businesses sell their wares in China.

Alibaba already accounts for 80% of all Chinese online consumer shopping and is looking to expand abroad.

Mr Ma said he eventually wanted 40% of sales to come from outside China, rather than the current 2%.

He was at pains to explain that Alibaba, which he founded in 1999, differed to Amazon because it didn't buy and sell stock, it provided a platform for small businesses to sell their products.

Alibaba listed on the New York Stock Exchange last year, raising $25bn, in the largest initial public offering in history.

"China has been very focused on exporting," Mr Ma said, "it should focus on importing. China should learn to buy."

Questioned on how he planned to deal with counterfeits, for which the company has been criticised and is currently being sued by Gucci, he replied he was "at war against criminals" and was working closely with the government to stamp it out.

"We're getting somewhere," he said.

The flamboyant Mr Ma, who once dressed up in leather and a Mohican wig and sang Elton John's Can you Feel the Love Tonight? to employees, said he had learned a lot about corporate values and missions in the US - from companies such as GE and Walmart.

But the 51-year old could not resist a dig about doing business in the US, mentioning a board meeting in which it was "like lawyers making a decision. No-one makes the final call".

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