Billionaire Jack Ma, chairman of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., arrives in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, U.S. (Photographer: Albin Lohr-Jones/Pool via Bloomberg)

Alibaba’s Ma Meets With Trump to Talk About Creating Jobs

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  • (Bloomberg) -- Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. Chairman Jack Ma met with Donald Trump on Monday to discuss how the online retailer could help create 1 million new U.S. jobs, keying in on one of the president-elect’s chief concerns amid fraught relations between China and the incoming administration.

    The Chinese e-commerce giant said the positions would be generated through Alibaba adding 1 million small and medium-sized U.S. businesses to its platforms, estimating that each one will hire a new person as a result of the added commerce.

    Several other top executives have met with Trump in his New York headquarters promising to create U.S. jobs. But Ma’s 40-minute sit-down comes after 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. Alibaba was also 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. Alibaba said at the time its new designation could have been influenced by politics.

    Still, Alibaba needs to cultivate a positive working relationship with Trump as it aims to implement its international expansion plans. Ma’s discussion fits into Alibaba’s long-stated goal of bringing foreign goods to Chinese consumers. Ma has also said he wants the company to derive half of its revenue from outside China, which would to offset any slowdowns at home.

    Alibaba shares rose 0.9 percent to $94.72 at the close in New York. The stock gained 8 percent last year.

    Alibaba has a significant part of its business tied to trade in the U.S., giving it a strong incentive to avoid a situation in which Trump puts his campaign rhetoric into practice. Higher tariffs 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. Last year, 7,000 U.S. brands on Alibaba’s platforms made sales worth $15 billion to Chinese consumers, according to the company.

    “Jack and I are going to do some great things together,” Trump said in the lobby of the Trump Tower in New York. After the meeting, Alibaba tweeted that 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 on Tuesday said it is leading a $2.6 billion bid to take department store operator Intime Retail Group Co. private, as its seeks to deepen its integration with brick-and-mortar stores in China. Alibaba has bought or invested in a number of physical retail chains in the country as it seeks growth beyond its traditional Internet business.

    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 Motor Co. -- 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.

    Bloomberg