U.S. president-elect Donald Trump had a “great meeting” with Alibaba executive chairman Jack Ma on Monday, when they were scheduled to discuss plans to create 1 million new U.S. jobs over the next five years.
“Jack and I are going to do some great things,” Trump said from Trump Tower in New York City.
“We’re focused on small business,” Ma told reporters.
The Monday meeting was planned to focus on the Chinese e-commerce company’s U.S. expansion plans, according to spokespeople for both Alibaba and Trump. Ma had planned to be in New York City on Monday and the scheduling worked out for the meeting, a source told CNBC.
Ma did not confirm a specific number of jobs to reporters after the meeting, but said that he would go through the small business community to focus on agriculture products, especially in the Midwest.
“We also think that the China and USA relationship should be strengthened — should be more friendly,” Ma said. “The door is open for discussing the relationship and trade issues. I think the president-elect is very smart, he’s very open-minded to listen. I told him my ideas about how to improve trade, especially to improve small business, cross border trade.”
The meeting comes amid tensions between China and the incoming Trump administration. Trump has proposed steep tariffs on trade with China, and has incited political controversy over the U.S. relationship with Taiwan.
But Trump has also been critical of Amazon, which like Alibaba, offers cloud services and a marketplace for third-party sellers. Trump has said Amazon will have “such problems” during his presidency, because of their tax structure.
Amazon had about 230,800 employees as of the end of 2015, though it creates other jobs through its sellers, contractors and supporting services. Alibaba, which focuses more heavily on enabling third-party sellers, had 36,446 full-time employees as of March 31, 2016, according to SEC filings.
Ma told CNBC last year that he wasn’t worried about anti-China sentiment on the presidential campaign trail.
“Somebody has to stand up and say hey, we should not be anti-trade,” said Ma.
Alibaba’s wide-ranging set of international businesses, from financial services to e-commerce to logistics, have managed to dominate many of America’s tech companies in China.
“I believe that … foreign technology companies will be successful in China,” Michael Evans, president of Alibaba Group, said at Vanity Fair’s 2016 New Establishment Summit in San Francisco in the fall. “I also believe that Chinese technology companies, including Didi, probably Alibaba, will be successful in the U.S. and Europe. But that is the challenge and the most difficult parts of globalization for us.”
Evans, who knows Trump personally, may have brokered Monday’s meeting with Trump, a source told CNBC.
If an expansion is announced, Alibaba would be the latest in a string of companies to commit to create U.S. jobs in the wake of Trump’s election. Japanese tech giant Softbank also reiterated a commitment tocreate 50,000 U.S. jobs after meeting with Trump.
Still, Alibaba has a complicated relationship with U.S. regulators. The company faced an SEC investigation about its accounting methods last year, and its property, Taobao, has been rebuked by American trade officials for allowing sale of counterfeit goods.
This story is developing. Please check back for further updates.
— CNBC’s Kayla Tausche contributed to this report.