NEW YORK: President-elect Donald Trump and China’s billionaire founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba held “great” talks in New York on Monday focused on creating US jobs and enabling trade with Asia.
The incoming Republican president, who will be sworn in as commander-in-chief in less than two weeks’ time having never previously held elected office, has made job creation a key promise of his incoming administration.
His team said the meeting between the 70-year-old real estate tycoon and China’ richest man was focused on how Alibaba can create one million US jobs by enabling one million US small businesses to sell goods into China and Asia.
“We had a great meeting,” Trump told reporters afterward in accompanying Ma back down to the lobby of his Trump Tower headquarters.
He hailed the 52-year-old self-made Chinese billionaire as a “great, great entrepreneur, one of the best in the world.”
“He loves this country and he loves China,” Trump added. “Jack and I going to do some great things. Small business, right?” he added.
Ma, executive chairman of Alibaba, said it had been a “productive” meeting and that the focus would be on small business and American agricultural products.
“We discussed about helping American small business selling things through Alibaba platform to China and to Asia,” he told reporters.
The Alibaba founder said the meeting focused on how to support one million small businesses, particularly in the Midwest, in selling products to China and Asia.
The meeting comes after Trump has taken a hard line with China, threatening to impose 45 percent import tariffs on Chinese goods and saying the world’s second biggest economy has stiffed the US through currency manipulation and illegal subsidies.
That antagonism has raised fears among US businesses that their exports to China will be threatened, especially since Beijing has signaled it will retaliate.
Ma said he and Trump agreed that China-US relations “should be strengthened, should be more friendly and do better.”
He said the door was “open” for discussing the relationship and trade issues, and praised Trump as “very smart” and “very open-minded” in listening.
Ma said he had conveyed his ideas on how to improve trade, and that the US president-elect had “concerns and he has solutions, that he wants to discuss with China and us.”
Alibaba shares were up 1.11 percent on the New York Stock Exchange during trade on Monday.
Trump also met LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault on Monday. Arnault told reporters that his company was going to expand its production in the United States.