President-elect Donald Trump met with Alibaba’s executive chairman Jack Ma and president Michael Evans at Trump Tower in New York on Monday to discuss U.S. job creation.
“We had a great meeting and [he is] a great, great entrepreneur, one of the best in the world. And he loves this country and he loves China,” said Trump, who accompanied Ma to the lobby after the meeting. “You just saw what happened with Fiat, where they’re going to build a massive plant in the United States, in Michigan, and we’re very happy, and Jack and I are going to do some great things. Small business, right?”
Sean Spicer, incoming White House press secretary, said, “During the meeting, the president-elect, Mr. Ma and Mr. Evans will be discussing how Alibaba can create one million U.S. jobs by enabling one million U.S. small businesses to sell goods in the China and Asian marketplace.”
Spicer did not elaborate on a call with reporters on how the jobs would be created. Many Chinese and foreign companies already sell on Alibaba’s e-commerce platforms, such as Taobao and Tmall.
Ma said the meeting was “productive.”
“We discussed…helping American small businesses, selling things through Alibaba’s platform to China and to Asia,” Ma said. “We mainly talked about small businesses and young people and [selling] American agriculture products to China. We also think that the China-U.S. relationship should be strengthening, should be more friendly.”
Ma was asked about the U.S. relationship with China and said he thinks “the door is open and we can openly discuss relationships and trade issues.”
Trump railed against China on the campaign trail and has pledged to label the country a currency manipulator and impose tariffs as high as 45 percent on Chinese imports.
Trump also raised the ire of China when he made remarks on “Fox News Sunday,” suggesting that the U.S. might not be bound by the one-China policy that considers Taiwan as a part of China.
Trump’s remarks drew a sharp rebuke from China’s state-run Global Times newspaper, which went as far as to call the president-elect “ignorant as a child” and came as tensions have been on the rise between the U.S. and China, sparking concerns that a trade war could ignite between the two countries.
On Trump, Ma said he thinks the president-elect is “very smart and open-minded. I [told] him my ideas [on] how to improve the trade, especially supporting small business, cross-border trade and business.”
He said Trump has concerns and solutions and wants to discuss them with China.
“I advised and suggested that we can go through the business community to understand the situation better and in a better way,” Ma said. “We specifically talked about how we will create and support one million small business [jobs], especially in the Midwest, small business on our platform to sell products.”
He said those products include not only agricultural items, but also garments and wine.
Alibaba said in a statement that “providing Chinese consumers with access to goods made outside of China has long been a key strategy” for the company.
Last year, Ma said he envisions 40 percent of the company’s business to be outside China in the next 10 years. In 20 years, he expects Alibaba to serve two billion consumers globally and support 10 million profitable businesses.
Some 100,000 brands sell on Alibaba’s platforms, according to a company fact sheet. Of those, 7,000 are U.S. brands with total sales of $15 billion to Chinese consumers in 2016, the e-commerce company said.
Alibaba cited Nike Inc., Gap Inc., Macy’s Inc., Target Corp., Levi Strauss & Co. and New Balance as just a small group of U.S. companies that sell on its platforms. The inclusion of Macy’s is somewhat ironic when it comes to Trump since the retailer dropped the tycoon’s products from its stores during the presidential campaign following the-then candidate’s comments about Mexican immigrants.
The company said 450 million mobile monthly users visit Alibaba’s platforms. It said its gross merchandise “value” for the year ended March 31 was $485 billion.
There are more than 300 million middle-class consumers in China with significant spending power of $4.6 trillion in aggregate net cash reserves for Chinese households, Alibaba said, citing statistics from McKinsey Global Insights, the People’s Bank of China and the U.S. Commerce Department.
In addition, there is a strong demand for U.S. goods, with some $500 billion in U.S. goods exported to China in the past five years, the company said. Cross-border e-commerce sales in China are expected to hit $150 billion by 2020.