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Jack Ma is stepping up a campaign to lure American businesses to Alibaba, the e-commerce giant, as he aims to woo Donald Trump with a pledge to create 1m US jobs.

The head of China’s largest private company said he plans to bring 1m small US businesses to Alibaba’s ecommerce platform in the next five years, as part of a plan hatched with Mr Trump in January.

“[Trump] said the American midwest is the centre, where there are so many small and medium sized companies,” said Mr Ma on a conference call with reporters. “China has 300m middle class [shoppers]. We need good stuff from outside China.”

Mr Ma’s comments come ahead of a June conference Alibaba will host in Detroit, the “first key driver” of a campaign to bring US farmers and businesses to export to China through Alibaba. Mr Ma said Mr Trump is “very excited and supportive” of the plan.

Mr Ma, one of China’s richest men, was an early visitor to Trump Tower following the presidential election last year, after which Trump told reporters the two are “going to do some great things”.

Alibaba is looking to lure more US merchants to its ecommerce platforms and sell US products to a growing Chinese middle class. Mr Ma’s plan to bring 1m US businesses to Alibaba’s platform follows a goal set to secure 2bn customers in the next decade.

Alibaba is one of many groups that have tried to win over the US president, who has pressured companies ranging from Ford to Boeing to invest in US manufacturing and job creation. Mr Trump hit out at China throughout his protectionist presidential campaign but has so far declined to label China a currency manipulator.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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