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Business

Trump's erratic tweets pose risk for US firms

Whether it's the Air Force One contract or shifting jobs to foreign countries, Trump routinely enunciates his opinions on Twitter. The markets usually react promptly, often leaving companies scrambling for explanations.

President-elect Donald Trump continues to stir controversies with his Twitter announcements. On the same day he demanded the US government cancel a multibillion-dollar order with Boeing for the next generation of new presidential planes, he hailed a Japanese company's commitment to invest billions in the US.

Trump's latest unexpected announcement came on Tuesday, on Twitter as usual, this time in conjunction with an ad hoc "press conference" for reporters who have been camped in the lobby of Trump Tower in Manhattan since his election.

Masayoshi Son, the flamboyant self-made billionaire and head of Japanese telecoms giant SoftBank, had "just agreed to invest $50 billion [47 billion euros] in the United States and 50,000 jobs," the president-elect said, putting his arm around his grinning visitor.

In a subsequent tweet, Trump said his election as president was the only reason Son decided to invest in the US.

The celebrity businessman's declaration about Air Force One ("The plane is totally out of control") from earlier that day had caused manufacturer Boeing's stock to drop temporarily and raised fresh questions about how his administration - not to mention his Twitter volleys - could affect the economy.

Talking to CNBC, financial expert D.R. Barton called Trump's criticism of Boeing a "shot across the bows" in an attempt to "squeeze more productivity out of the spending dollar" than previous administrations.

Details about SoftBank investment remain unclear

A deeper look at the deal raise questions about Trump's statements. The funds SoftBank committed don't come directly from SoftBank but from the $100-billion SoftBank's Vision Fund, which CEO and billionaire Masayoshi Son "Masa" had announced in October. Even more contentious is the fact that Trump didn't mention that the lion's share wouldn't come from SoftBank but Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund. During the election campaign, Trump had accused Saudi sheiks of gaining influence in the US by donating to rival Clinton's campaign.

As to the alleged creation of 50,000 jobs, it is unclear whether companies will hire 50,000 people with the money or the money will go to companies that already employ 50,000 Americans.

Although Trump made the pompous act look like the deal had already been inked, no official agreement has been made, nor has a timeline for the investment been announced.

USA Donald Trump und Masayoshi Son (picture-alliance/Kyodo)

President-elect Donald Trump with SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son in Trump Tower

Trump's tweets pose a previously unknown risk for US companies. Before taking on Boeing, Trump had embarrassed auto maker Ford, boasting he had convinced Ford's chairman Bill Ford to keep a car plant in the US. The firm, however, had never announced to move said plant.

But it's not just the business world that Trump keeps on its heels. Last week, the president-elect's phone conversation with the president of Taiwan - breaking from decades of diplomatic tradition - caused diplomatic tensions between China and the US government.

Union president challenges Trump

While most reactions to Trump's tweets have been non-confrontational and explanatory, United Steelworkers 1999 president Alex Jones was one of the few to openly criticize Trump for his 140-character-or-less statements.

"He overreacted," Jones told CNN Wednesday, reacting to Trump's controversial deal to discourage Carrier Corp. from closing an Indiana factory that would save 1,100 American jobs. "He should have come out and tried to justify his numbers."

Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence - governor of Indiana - had visited Carrier's Indianapolis factory on Dec. 1 to celebrate the deal. Trump suggested then that the number of jobs saved could top 1,100, causing Jones to say the total is much less because more than 400 jobs will still be lost from the Indianapolis plant.

In a second tweet, Trump suggested Jones should "Spend more time working - less time talking" and the union should "Reduce dues." About 30 minutes later, the union leader started getting harassing phone calls, he told MSNBC.

Trump has said he will explain how he will separate himself from his real estate empire to avoid conflicts of interest while in the White House. Not surprisingly, Trump announced the news conference scheduled for December 15 in a tweet.

bb/hg (dpa, AP, AFP)

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