Alibaba founder and Chairman Jack Ma says that the Chinese retail giant won't follow through on a promise to create 1 million jobs in the United States due to the ongoing trade dispute between Washington and Beijing, according to CNBC.
Ma made the promise during a high-profile January 2017 meeting with then-President-Elect Donald Trump.
"The promise was made on the premise of friendly US-China partnership and rational trade relations," Ma told Chinese news site Xinhua on Wednesday. "That premise no longer exists today, so our promise cannot be fulfilled."
Ma, who recently announced that he will step down as Alibaba chairman within a year, added that the company would "not stop working hard to contribute to the healthy development of China-US trade." -CNBC
Word of the broken promise follows a new phase of the tariff war, with the United States imposing 10% tariffs on around $200 billion of imports effective September 24, and China responding with $60 billion in tariffs on US goods beginning on the same day.
During a Tuesday investor conference, Ma called the trade turmoil a "mess" that could have decades-long ramifications.
A convenient excuse?
Ma's promise of 1 million US jobs was already considered "ambitious" (if we're being generous) - considering that WalMart, the nation's largest private employer, has 1.5 million employees. Ma's promise would decrease the number of unemployed Americans by a 14%.
Ma's plan was to enable one million US small businesses to sell American goods to consumers throughout Asia over Alibaba's Taobao and Tmall shopping sites. Adding one million individual American brands onto the platforms would have required a 142-fold increase in sales.
Meanwhile, Tmall has been reportedly punishing major brands who refused to enter exclusive partnerships with Alibaba.
Executives from five major consumer brands told the AP that after they refused to enter exclusive partnerships with Alibaba, traffic to their Tmall storefronts fell, hurting sales. Three are American companies with billions in annual sales that rely on China for growth.
executives soon learned that what Alibaba gives, it can also take away.
The company refused to sign an exclusive contract with Alibaba, and instead participated in a big sale promotion with its archrival, JD.com. Tmall punished them by taking steps to cut traffic to their storefront, two executives told The Associated Press. -CNBC
No word on how many US jobs Ma's promise actually created in the 20 months between when he made it and when he broke it.