23 February 2019
US technology giants in Silicon Valley rely heavily on talent from China, India and Europe. Photo: Bloomberg
US technology giants in Silicon Valley rely heavily on talent from China, India and Europe. Photo: Bloomberg

How Donald Trump could shake up Silicon Valley

Republican Donald Trump might be the most controversial US president.

A billionaire with a personal wealth of US$3.7 billion, he won the election with a populist agenda.

He is against global trade and his presidency might be a nightmare for US tech giants in Silicon Valley. Trump has said he will go after internet companies.

Rich Americans supported Hillary Clinton. Internet leaders have open political views and have been loyal Clinton supporters.

Trump has no connection to internet firms from a business perspective.

US giants such as Amazon, Google, Facebook and Twitter embrace globalization and are aggressively expanding into overseas markets while Trump has been mouthing anti-globalization rhetoric.

Also, Silicon Valley has become increasingly dependent on immigrants from China, India and Europe.

But this group of skilled workers have brought a kind of cultural shock to the US, putting Trump’s immigration and labor policy under the spotlight.

It’s widely expected that Trump will tighten H-1B visas.

Established in 1990, the federal H-1B visa program allows employers to import up to 85,000 foreign workers each year to fill jobs that require “highly specialized knowledge”.

Democrats want to expand the program to 195,000 a year.

The program has become a major source of labor supply for Silicon Valley.

However, Trump wants to end the H-1B visa program.

Even if he makes compromises, tech companies will still be hurt.

Also, Trump has vowed to shake up tech giants such as Amazon and Apple.

He is planning to introduce an internet sales tax and he wants to stop internet companies from stashing massive profits abroad to avoid paying tax.

That would put a number of tech firms under pressure.

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba might have the most to lose. Alibaba makes a lot of money from global trade.

Trump wants to impose tariffs on Chinese goods of as much as 45 percent.

If implemented, that could be devastating for Alibaba’s B2B business and for Tmall.

It is being investigated by the US Securities and Exchange Commission over its accounting practices relating to its Singles’ Day promotion.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov. 11

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese verions中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist

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