IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde (L), and Jack Ma, founder and chairman of Alibaba Group, talk on the sidelines of the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2018 on April 9, 2018. （Photo/China News Service）
Countries should resist the temptation for inward policies and protectionist sentiments to sustain sound economic growth, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said on Monday. [Special coverage]
History has told us the downsides of closing-off to the rest of world and the benefits of open trade, Lagarde said on the sidelines of the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2018.
"We can say with assurance that trade has been a major factor in reducing extreme poverty and spreading innovation," she told a packed gathering attended by leading business and political luminaries.
"If we want to achieve improved productivity, we need to have trade," Lagarde noted, adding that countries must act according to the rules that players are giving to themselves, such as within the framework of the World Trade Organization.
Trade is not simply about goods but about respecting other cultures, said Jack Ma, founder and chairman of Alibaba Group.
It is only natural that the United States and China, as the world's top two economies and biggest trading partners, encounter trade problems, Ma said, yet a trade war is not the right remedy to address that issue.
"Having trade problems is like catching a cold. But you don't have to use chemotherapy," Ma said. "In that case, you are not solving the problem of getting the cold but destroying the whole body or the system."
Ma said that under a good trade relationship, Alibaba can help boost 10 million or even 20 million jobs in the US, on top of his earlier pledge of creating 1 million jobs over the next five years by facilitating small US businesses to sell products via its e-commerce sites.
China's burgeoning middle class will continue to consume more foreign products, which spells a boon to the US, Ma noted. However, a souring bilateral trade tie would only destroy that many jobs and such rosy prospects.
"But I am sure that both countries are smart enough that they will fix it (the trade fiction)," he said.