eBay CEO Devin Wenig Addresses the China Issue

eBay CEO Devin Wenig did not seem overly concerned with current US-China trade and postal issues when speaking with Wall Street analysts on Tuesday, despite the company’s exposure – 
in 2014, he referred to eBay’s “really big China export business to Europe and the United States.” During Tuesday’s call, he outlined several ways eBay has helped its Chinese sellers importing into the US.

“A majority of our China inventory is now warehoused in the United States,” he explained in response to a question about tariffs. “Obviously they’re not our warehouses, but we’ve helped our Chinese sellers with warehousing domestically, so that wouldn’t be subject to those quarters.”

He said tariffs on Chinese goods had had very little impact thusfar. “Most of the tariffs have been consumer goods, and we haven’t seen very much.” With regard to USPS postal changes impacting Chinese imports, he said “it’s a little early, we’re pretty well positioned if those changes take fruition.”

Wenig referred to 
SpeedPAK, a new shipping service eBay rolled out to help Chinese sellers reach US consumers through multiple delivery options that would not be subject to proposed postal changes, a reference to the Trump administration’s decision to pull out of the Universal Postal Union and “self-declare” higher rates for goods coming from China.

In fact, Wenig said he thinks eBay is better positioned than other companies when it comes to US government action regarding China:

“I wouldn’t say there is no impact, but actually, in some ways, if the changes happen for everyone importing China inventory, we think we’re about the best positioned given that we’ve been in this business for a long time, and we’ve taken a lot of changes to shrink time and distance and costs for Chinese sellers and build diversity at the last-mile.”

Some might wonder if Wenig is tone-deaf to the current political environment. A sign came today that the administration has not finished taking economic actions in response to what it sees as the China threat, with the potential for more collateral damage to retailers.

The United States Justice Department launched the 
China Initiative to combat what it called “Chinese economic espionage against the United States,” which it said has been rapidly increasing. Among the goals of the DOJ’s China Initiative is to “Evaluate whether additional legislative and administrative authorities are required to protect our national assets from foreign economic aggression.” 

Wenig also appeared oblivious to the concerns of eBay’s US sellers who resent what some perceive as its favoritism to Chinese sellers that harms their own exposure in the marketplace, resentment that is being fueled by the political rhetoric.

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