China hosts its inaugural International Import Expo in Shanghai.

BEIJING — Alibaba Group has promised to import $200 billion worth of goods from more than 120 countries over the next five years, shoring up the stance of founder Jack Ma and Chinese president Xi Jinping who both heavily criticized the trade war with the U.S.

The company said so Tuesday at the inaugural China International Import Expo in Shanghai, a weeklong event aimed at promoting international trade and was opened by Xi on Monday. In his opening speech, Xi signaled he would lower import tariffs and lower other barriers for foreign firms to do business with China, although timeline and specifics were not detailed.

“Globalization is one of Alibaba’s most critical long-term growth strategies. We are building the future infrastructure of commerce to realize a globalized digital economy where trade is possible for every country around the world,” Daniel Zhang, chief executive officer of Alibaba Group, said in the announcement. “Leveraging Alibaba’s innovative technology and robust ecosystem, we are committed to making global trade more inclusive and fulfilling our mission ‘to make it easy to do business anywhere’ in the digital era.”

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Between 2019 and 2023, the company said, Alibaba will help import international goods highlighting in particular Germany, Japan, Australia, the U.S. and South Korea.

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks at the opening ceremony for the China International Import Expo in Shanghai, . Xi promised Monday to open China wider to imports at the start of a high-profile trade fair meant to rebrand the country as a global customer but offered no response to U.S. and European complaints about technology policy and curbs on foreign businessImport Fair, Shanghai, China - 05 Nov 2018

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks at the opening ceremony for the China International Import Expo in Shanghai.  Aly Song/AP/REX/Shutterstock

A day earlier, Ma condemned the trade war with the U.S.

“Trade war is the most stupid thing in this world,” Ma said on a panel. “Trade is for the peace, trade is to communicate. There will be no trade deficit issue in the next twenty years because of technology. Nobody can stop free trade.”

The trade war between the U.S. and China is starting to show up in certain key indicators. At 6.5 percent, the Chinese economy expanded at its weakest pace since 2009 in the first three quarters of 2018. Within that, retail sales were up 9.3 percent, but below the 10.4 percent increase seen a year earlier.

The just concluded Canton Fair, the largest trade show in China, showed that orders to the U.S., its largest outbound market, had dropped 30.3 percent from a year ago to $2.8 billion, shrinking the total fair’s turnover to $29.9 billion, down 1 percent.

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Joint research by Deloitte China, the China Chamber of International Commerce, and AliResearch showed that the Chinese cross-border e-commerce market has grown remarkably, with the proportion of imports to total e-commerce sales growing from 1.6 percent in 2014 to 10.2 percent in 2017. In the same period, the number of shoppers on Alibaba’s dedicated platform for cross-border shopping, Tmall Global, has grown tenfold.

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