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Why Alibaba’s Outgoing CEO Is Worried about Europe

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Jul. 31 2019, Updated 3:33 p.m. ET

Ma thinks Europe is shooting itself in the foot

Alibaba (BABA) co-founder and outgoing executive chair, Jack Ma, has criticized Europe’s obsession with technology regulation, warning that the region risks falling behind other economies if all its regulators see are problems that technology could bring rather than the opportunities in it, according to a report by the South China Morning Post.

A year ago, European Union countries adopted tight data regulation rules, which generally restrict how companies operating in the region handle people’s digital information. Google (GOOGL) and Facebook (FB) have faced probes under the EU’s tough data law known as the GDPR that came into force in May last year. Companies can be fined up to 4.0% of their global revenue if found in violation of the GDPR law.

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Soft regulations helped China and America emerge as tech leaders

Ma, who spoke at the VivaTech conference in Paris, France, early this month, recalled that soft tech regulations in China and America in the early days of the Internet helped many global tech giants emerge from those regions. From America, Google, Amazon (AMZN), and PayPal (PYPL) have emerged as leaders in online search, e-commerce, and digital payments, respectively. From China, Alibaba, Tencent (TCEHY), and Huawei have emerged as leaders in e-commerce and cloud computing, digital games, and telecom equipment. But not many global tech giants have emerged from Europe.

Alibaba runs an e-commerce business in Europe and also wants to expand its cloud business in the region. The company last year expanded its European cloud footprint with the opening of two data centers in Britain. More than $214 billion is up for grabs in the global cloud market in 2019, Gartner estimates show.

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