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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 September 2018

Biggest US business group defends Amazon against Trump

'Inappropriate for government officials to use their position to attack an American company', says chief policy officer of the US Chamber of Commerce

Amazon boxes are seen stacked for delivery in New York City. The US chamber of commerce has rallied behind the firm in the face of criticism from Trump. Mike Segar/Reuters
Amazon boxes are seen stacked for delivery in New York City. The US chamber of commerce has rallied behind the firm in the face of criticism from Trump. Mike Segar/Reuters

The largest American business lobby group came to the defence of Amazon.com on Tuesday after a multi-day Twitter attack by US President Donald Trump that included unsubstantiated criticism of the world’s biggest online retailer.

The value of Amazon shares held by Jeff Bezos, the online retailer’s chief executive and single largest shareholder, had taken a $10 billion hit in the week since Mr Trump began attacking him and his company on Twitter.

Citing an unspecified report, Mr Trump told reporters at the White House that the company was not paying the US Postal Service a fair rate, and that it was costing US taxpayers billions of dollars and forcing other retailers out of business, and he threatened to raise rates.

Late on Tuesday afternoon, a source familiar with proceedings at the White House said no specific actions addressing Mr Trump’s concerns about Amazon were on the table at the White House, but that could change given Mr Trump’s dissatisfaction with the company.

The US Chamber of Commerce, the largest business lobby group in the country, stepped in on Tuesday to defend Amazon, which is a member.

“It’s inappropriate for government officials to use their position to attack an American company,” said Neil Bradley, chief policy officer of the US Chamber of Commerce, citing the value of the free enterprise system and the rule of law. “The record is clear: deviating from those processes undermines economic growth and job creation.”

It is not the first time Mr Trump, or another US president, has been publicly critical of a company. Mr Trump has previously criticised car maker Carrier Corp, which is owned by United Technologies and Boeing.

In 2015, then-President Barack Obama criticised office supply company Staples for not embracing the Affordable Care Act, drawing a quick rebuke from Republicans and the US Chamber of Commerce.

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Mr Trump has progressively escalated his criticism of Amazon and Mr Bezos, who also privately owns The Washington Post, which has published stories that have angered the president.

Mr Bezos, ranked as the world’s richest man with an estimated net worth of $115.6bn, owns 78.89 million Amazon shares, worth about $110bn at Tuesday’s market close.

Amazon shares closed up 1.5 per cent at $1,392.05. The shares started the day higher but fell as low as $1,355.33 after Mr Trump’s latest Amazon-related tweet.

Mr Trump has accused Amazon of not paying enough tax, taking advantage of the US postal system and putting small retailers out of business, but he has offered no evidence to back up his criticisms.

“The post office is losing billions of dollars ... because it delivers packages for Amazon at a very low rate,” Mr Trump told reporters on Tuesday. “If you look at the cost that we’re subsidising, we’re giving a subsidy to Amazon.”

Mr Trump offered no details about the report he cited or how he might charge the company more through USPS.

Amazon also ships packages through providers such as FedEx and United Parcel Service as well as its own experimental shipping service.

Representatives of Amazon and USPS had no comment on Mr Trump’s tweet on Tuesday and could not be immediately reached regarding his latest comments to reporters.

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