Alibaba Founder Jack Ma Just Backed Down From His Promise of 1 Million New U.S. Jobs. Here’s Why

September 19, 2018, 11:11 PM UTC

Alibaba founder Jack Ma said the Chinese company will no longer create one million new jobs in America, as he had previously promised U.S. President Donald Trump due to the rocky trade relationship between the two nations.

On Wednesday Ma told Xinhua, a Chinese news site, “The current situation has already destroyed the original premise.”

Ma made his commitment on Jan. 9, 2017, prior to Trump’s inauguration in a meeting at Trump Tower in New York City.

That statement had been met at the time with some dubiousness because of how Ma characterized the jobs, and U.S. economists’ doubts that the impact could be that high. Ma had said he wanted to enable one million small businesses and farmers in America access to sell goods to customers at Alibaba in China and throughout Asia. How that would translate into one million jobs was left undefined.

Nonetheless, Ma’s statement underlines Chinese bearishness in the wake of tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods imported to the U.S. on top of $50 billion covered by an earlier round. Ma said his commitment relied on friendly cooperation between the U.S. and China, and on the “rational and objective premise of bilateral trade.”

Ma plans to step down in a year as the company’s chairman, and remain on the board through 2020. Ma originally said he would leave the position last week, and then seemingly contradicted on-the-record statements to the New York Times a few days later.