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Is Trump warming to China?

January 10, 2017

Following his meeting with Alibaba founder Jack Ma, analysts have wondered whether US President-elect Donald Trump's anti-China rhetoric will now be a thing of the past. After all, Ma promised a million new jobs.

Donald Trump und Jack Ma  (Getty Images/T.A.Clary)
Image: Getty Images/T.A.Clary

"Forbes" contributor Jay Somaney wrote Tuesday that Donald Trump's Monday meeting with Alibaba Executive Chairman Jack Ma "could prove that most of the president-elect's tough talk on China will turn out to be just that."

Prior to the meeting, Trump had often targeted the Asian giant and the world's second-largest economy, blaming Beijing for US job losses and vowing to impose 45-percent tariffs on Chinese imports.

He had also promised to call China a currency manipulator on his first day in office. But he didn't mind Jack Ma laying out Alibaba's new plan to bring hundreds of thousands small US businesses onto its platform to sell to Chinese consumers. And he certainly didn't mind Ma indicating that the move would eventually create a million new jobs in the US.

Mutually beneficial

Trump told reports the two men had a "great meeting" and would do great things together, while Ma called Trump "smart" and "open-minded," and there was no trace of a future trade war between the two nations.

About 7,000 US brands from Costco Wholesale to Levi's currently sit on Alibaba's Tmall platform, making $15 billion (14.2 billion euros) in sales to Chinese customers in the course of last year.

Analysts pointed out that there was nothing to lose in talking about ways to get more US small and medium-sized companies interested in the scheme and stimulate demand in China.

"Getting into a trade war and tariff-slinging with the second largest economy in the world, especially one that is growing at a pace three times that of the US economy, is not a smart move for either side," Jay Somaney concluded.

Alibaba did not mention, though, whether Trump and Ma spoke about an ongoing investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission into the Chinese company's accounting practices.

Among the unresolved issues is that the US Trade Representative last month returned Alibaba to a group of blacklisted online retailers over concerns the firm was not doing enough to curb counterfeiting on its platforms.

Alibaba has meanwhile sued two vendors for allegedly selling counterfeit goods on its online sales portal Taobao. The company admitted that "selling counterfeits not only violates our service agreement, but also infringes on the intellectual property rights of the brand owner and ruins the hard-earned trust and reputation Alibaba has with our customers."

hg/jd (Reuters, AFP, Forbes)


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