Donald Trump

Alibaba offers Trump 1 million US jobs, builds bridge for Sino-US ties

Trump says he had a ‘great meeting’ with Alibaba founder

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 January, 2017, 8:01am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 January, 2017, 11:42pm

Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma has offered the company’s e-commerce platform to help US businesses sell products to Asia, with the potential of creating up to 1 million American jobs, giving Donald Trump bragging rights of fulfilling his campaign vow even before he formally takes office.

In the process, Alibaba is setting a positive tone for Sino-US relations in the mode that the US president-elect understands best, which could help smooth ruffled feathers should trade conflicts flare up in future, analysts said.

“Trump’s meeting with Ma sends a positive signal that could help Trump better understand the importance of Sino-US economic relations,” said Fu Mengzi, deputy director of China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

“After all, he has had businesses in China and has come to China before. It means he’s attaching importance to the relationship between the two countries.”

In their 40-minute meeting at Trump Tower in New York, Ma said he shared ideas with the US president-elect about ways to improve trade, and offered Alibaba’s platforms to support up to 1 million US vendors to sell to China and Southeast Asia.

For Trump, the meeting offered an opportunity to realise his campaign pledge to create jobs and bolster American commerce, as well as smooth over anxieties about the potential impact of his trade policies.

Chinese consumers are expected to spend more than US$150 billion on foreign-made products by 2020, according to a recent eMarketer report.

Watch: Donald Trump and Jack Ma meet in New York

For Alibaba – owner of the South China Morning Post – the collaboration is seen as a vital step to broaden its revenue stream, where Ma envisions 40 per cent of business to come from outside mainland China in the next decade. Within 20 years, he expects Alibaba to serve as many as 2 billion consumers worldwide, and support 10 million profitable businesses.

“Ma’s attitude indicates that China is hoping for cooperation,” said Yuan Zheng, a researcher from the Institute of American Studies from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. ”What Trump wants is to boost the US economy and create more jobs. If China can provide some help on that, and if Sino-US trade is in favour of the US, Trump will be pleased to accept it.”

Already, China’s 300 million middle-earning consumers are among the world’s most voracious online shoppers, creating business opportunities for approximately 10 million global merchants to sell to Chinese consumers via Alibaba’s platforms.

The Chinese company has long set its sights on America’s market. In a 2015 opinion piece in T he Wall Street Journal, Ma said Alibaba’s vision is to help US entrepreneurs, small business owners, brands and companies of all sizes ell their goods to the growing Chinese consumer class.

“Chinese consumers will get to buy the American products they want. This, in turn, will help create American jobs and increase US exports,” he said.

America’s trade with China already supports more than 40 million jobs in the US, according to estimates by the US Chamber of Commerce.

The US has exported over US$500 billion of goods to China in the past five years, according to the US Department of Commerce.

Trump said he and Ma had a “great meeting”, adding that the Chinese Alibaba founder “is a great, great entrepreneur, one of the best in the world”.

[Alibaba founder] is a great, great entrepreneur, one of the best in the world
Donald Trump, US president-elect

Alibaba’s platform already allows US businesses including Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue to operate online stores, selling directly to Chinese consumers. During last year’s November 11 Singles’ Day online shopping festival, Chinese shoppers could browse Macy’s store using virtual reality goggles sold by Taobao for 1 yuan each.

The meeting with Trump came within weeks of Alibaba being put back on a US agency’s list of global marketplaces known for counterfeit and pirated goods.

Jia Xiudong, a researcher at the China Institute of International Studies, said trade is important in Sino-US relations, especially as Chinese investment in the United States is increasing.

“Even though the two nations have competition in some sectors, they both benefit from trade ties,” he said.