While there are many questions about the sincerity, not to mention underlying viability of his company (which many skeptical investors have accused of being an accounting shell whose operations raise many questions), moments ago Alibaba's Jack Ma appeared at the Trump Tower for a meeting with Donald Trump, where according to CNBC, he will discuss plans to create 1 million new U.S. jobs over the next five years. The Monday meeting will focus on the Chinese e-commerce company's U.S. expansion plans, according to spokespeople for both Alibaba and Trump.
It is unclear why Beijig would be ok with Ma creating 1 million jobs in the US and not China, but let's ignore that for now.
While the meeting comes amid tensions between China and the Trump administration as a result of the proposed steep tariffs on trade with China, Trump has shown more tolerance at the micro level in his discussions with prominent Asian businessmen and investors, like SoftBank's Masayoshi Son, who recently assured Trump he would create 50,000 jobs in the US.
Ma previously told CNBC that he wasn't worried about anti-China sentiment on the presidential campaign trail. "Somebody has to stand up and say hey, we should not be anti-trade," said Ma. Alibaba's wide-ranging set of international businesses, from financial services to e-commerce to logistics, have managed to dominate many of America's tech companies in China.
A deal with Ma could be adverse news for one of his bigger competitors, Jeff Bezos. Trump also repeatedly been critical of Bezos (who owns the Washington Post) and his internet retail giant Amazon, which like Alibaba, offers cloud services and a marketplace for third-party sellers. Trump has said Amazon will have "such problems" during his presidency, because of their tax structure.
That said, Alibaba has a complicated relationship with U.S. regulators. The company faced an SEC investigation about its accounting methods last year, and its property, Taobao, has been rebuked by American trade officials for allowing sale of counterfeit goods.
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And in separate news, following last week's Trump-tweeted barb aimed at Toyota, the Japanese car giant said it plans to invest $10 billion in the US over the next 5 years.
Speaking in an interview with Bloomberg TV, Toyota's North American CEO, Jim Lentz, said that his company "understands what President-elect Trump wants to do." He noted that Toyota does build Corolla in U.S. as well, adding that Toyota is a “relatively small player in Mexico."
Hinting that Toyota, like other carmakers, are hoping Trump will postpone draconian emmision regulations enacted by the Obama administration, he said that Toyota "seeks predictability on emissions standards."
Amusingly, Lentz said that Toyota does best with high consumer confidence, low interest rates... as do 100% of all other companies. Still, it may have been the latest hint to Trump to keep rates as low as possible, which may be problematic if Trump's fiscal stimulus boost inflation, giving the Fed no other option than hiking faster than expected in an attempt to contain inflation.