In a rare gesture, US prez Obama quizzes Alibaba’s Jack Ma, Filipina entrepreneur at Asia-Pac Summit

U.S. President Barack Obama and Alibaba Chairman Jack Ma take part in a dialogue at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit in Manila November 18, 2015. REUTERS/Aaron Favila/Pool

U.S. President Barack Obama took time off at an Asia-Pacific summit on Wednesday for an unusual task – putting questions to Chinese internet billionaire Jack Ma and a young Filipina entrepreneur on government-business ties in a panel discussion.

Obama joked comfortably with the eccentric founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., which is looking to make inroads into foreign markets, including the United States.

During the discussion on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Manila, the U.S. president probed Ma on how he thought government and established businesses could help young entrepreneurs.

“Government is simple – just reduce the tax, or no tax, for these guys,” Ma responded, to a wave of laughter and applause from the audience of business executives.

“You got a lot of cheers from your fellow CEOs,” Obama quipped in response.

Ma’s remarks come as Alibaba works to invest heavily in ventures abroad. Executives have said its push beyond the China market is a top priority, as the company works to maintain its rapid growth even as the prospect of e-commerce saturation at home looms large.

Alibaba has said some of its larger overseas markets include Brazil and Russia.

Obama also praised the relatively unknown Filipina entrepreneur, Aisa Mijeno, a professor of engineering who invented a lamp powered by salt water. He suggested that Ma should invest in the company of his fellow panelist after she said she was looking for funding to mass-produce the lamps.

“I’m just saying,” Obama said, throwing Ma a suggestive look. “Serving as a matchmaker here, a little bit.”

Ma smiled in response. He said Alibaba had been putting 0.3 percent of the company’s total revenue for the past six years toward encouraging young people to find solutions to climate change and other environmental issues.

Ma added that he thought it was a “fantastic idea” to invest in clean technology, referring to a recent conversation in which Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates broached the idea.

Agreement on climate change is one of the bright spots in Washington’s troubled relationship with Beijing, which has been shaken recently by a row over China’s increasingly assertive posture in the South China Sea.

Leaders of the two countries agreed in September to a common vision for a global climate change agreement, including steps to deliver on earlier pledges to slash greenhouse gas emissions.

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Reuters

 

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Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

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Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.