Alibaba Group Holding Chairman Jack Ma met with President-elect Donald Trump today and discussed plans to create 1 million new jobs in the U.S. by helping small businesses sell goods to China.
The meeting comes amid tensions between its home country and the incoming administration. Trump has called for high tariffs on trade with China, accused the country of stealing jobs from Americans and incited political controversy by reaching out to Taiwan. The e-commerce giant was recently put back on the U.S. “Notorious Markets” list, with its Taobao website cited as a haven for fake merchandise, suggesting it hasn’t done enough to fight counterfeits.
Still, the announcement of new jobs pleased Trump and he was quick to praise Ma, China’s richest man.
“Jack and I are going to do some great things together,” Trump said in the lobby of the Trump Tower after the meeting in New York.
Alibaba has a significant amount of business tied to trade in the U.S. and has outlined expansion plans in the country. The company’s goal is to be the main destination for connecting international retailers with Chinese consumers. Alibaba plans to create the new jobs by adding 1 million small and medium-sized U.S. businesses and farmers to Alibaba’s platforms, estimating that each one will hire a new person as a result of the added commerce.
Higher tariffs, were Trump to follow through with campaign rhetoric, would depress demand for the AliExpress site, where Chinese retailers sell to U.S. consumers. Any ensuing trade disputes could hurt sales on Alibaba’s Tmall platform, through which U.S. and international brands sell to Chinese consumers. That would set back Ma’s goal to derive about half of the company’s revenue from outside China to offset any slowdowns at home. Last year, 7,000 U.S. brands on Alibaba’s platforms made sales worth $15 billion to Chinese consumers, according to the company.
After the 40-minute meeting, the company tweeted it “wants to create U.S. jobs by helping U.S. small businesses and farmers sell to China’s 300 million-strong middle class.”
U.S. produce sold on Alibaba’s platforms include Pacific Northwest cherries, Washington State apples, and Alaskan seafood.
Alibaba shares rose 0.9 percent to $94.74 at 2:37 p.m. in New York.
Trump’s meeting with Ma comes just a few weeks after he met with SoftBank Group Corp. Chief Executive Officer Masayoshi Son. In that meeting, Trump took credit for a previously announced investment by SoftBank and 50,000 jobs that fund would help create in the U.S.
Several other companies — from IBM to Ford — have also unveiled plans to create jobs in the country since Trump’s election, though some of the plans had been in the works before the election was decided.
(c) 2017, Bloomberg · Selina Wang