January 24, 2018 / 4:02 PM / 6 months ago

China's JD.com complains of 'serious' U.S. protectionism

DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan 24 (Reuters) - The head of China's second-biggest e-commerce company, JD.com Inc, accused the United States on Wednesday of practising "serious" protectionism against Chinese firms and said this would ultimately backfire on the world's largest economy.

"Many friends from other countries discuss protectionism in China but I think things have completely reversed," JD.com Chairman and Chief Executive Richard Liu said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

"One day it will hurt the U.S. economy too," said Liu, whose $67 billion online retailer competes with bigger rival Alibaba Group Holding.

The United States on Tuesday slapped steep import tariffs on washing machines and solar panels in moves billed as a way to protect American jobs by President Donald Trump. They sparked condemnations from China and South Korea.

The U.S. government also recently rejected Chinese firm Ant Financial's plan to acquire U.S. money transfer firm MoneyGram International Inc over national security concerns, the most high-profile Chinese deal to be torpedoed under the Trump administration.

The U.S. government has toughened its stance on the sale of American companies to Chinese entities, at a time of already tense trade ties, with Washington vowing to narrow a large trade deficit with China which reached $347 billion in 2016.

Liu said Nasdaq-listed JD.com not only wants to overtake Alibaba as the largest online retailer in China, but also become a global player. But like other Chinese CEOs, he said he had found it difficult to make forays into the U.S. market.

For now, the company is focused on Southeast Asia, and would look to grow in the region both organically and by acquisition.

"It's hard to use only one model. In Southeast Asia, we look for local partners to develop business, but we don't want to exclude acquisitions," Liu said.

In January, JD.com said it had made an investment in Vietnamese e-commerce firm Tiki.vn, the latest move in a strategic push into the region where Alibaba and Amazon have also made significant investments in the past year. (Reporting by Soyoung Kim; Editing by Mark Bendeich)

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