Walmart and China just sent Donald Trump a big SOS on free trade

Michel Euler/AP

In a move that could help curry favor with President-elect Donald Trump, Walmart is the latest company promising to create new American jobs, saying in a statement Tuesday morning it planned to add 10,000 U.S. jobs this year. 

As with some of the other recent corporate announcements touting job creation, those Walmart jobs may have already been in the works, according to the Wall Street Journal

A Walmart spokesman also pointed to a "additional ... 24,000 construction jobs" to help build new stores in an email to Mic. While the 10,000 jobs will be permanent positions — including retail roles and e-commerce hires — the 24,000 are temporary.

The spokesman declined to comment to Mic if the new jobs were attributable to the president-elect's proposed anti-import policies or were already planned: Trump's proposed tariffs could especially hurt companies that import from foreign countries — like Walmart.

Indeed, Walmart's announcement came as one of the company's major suppliers, China, took center stage at the 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, an annual gathering for elites to discuss the world's most pressing problems.

In one of the first major speeches of the conference, Chinese President Xi Jinping made an impassioned defense of globalization and free trade on Tuesday, arguing: “No one will emerge as a winner from a trade war,” according to WEF.

It was an important moment, not least because of the irony that the head of the world's largest Communist country has become one of global capitalism's greatest defenders.

Both Walmart's announcement and Xi Jinping's pro-trade words seem to signal growing fear of trade war between the U.S. and China. As Brendon Hong of the Daily Beast notes, despite its size, the United States might actually be outgunned on that front.

China was until last December the biggest holder of U.S. debt —and still holds the second-highest volume — meaning China could devastate the value of Treasury bonds simply by selling them.

Then there's the matter of the Chinese market for American-made goods. 

The U.S. automotive industry, for example, would take a huge hit if it could no longer sell cars in China. According to CNNMoney, GM sells more cars to Chinese people than it does Americans — 3.4 million in the first 11 months of 2016; Ford sold 1 million.

But if anyone should be concerned about increasingly tough talk on China, it's Walmart, one of the biggest suppliers putting cheap Chinese products into the hands of U.S. consumers. 

Chinese imports entering the country through Walmart totaled nearly $50 billion in 2013, according to the Economic Policy Institute, although the company has since pledged to purchase more from U.S. producers. 

Even if China doesn't retaliate, Trump's general plan — to impose new taxes on importers to create tax breaks on everyone else — could still end up increasing costs for consumers: According to one study, the taxes on a $100 sweater, for example, could go from roughly $1.75 to $17, which means shoppers may be forced to make up the difference.

Annual spending at Walmart from the typical American family varies from state to state but is particularly high in the South and Midwest. 

In Tennessee, annual per capita spending at Walmart topped $1,100 in 2015, according to GOBankingRates. In Oklahoma, the figure topped $1,600, amounting to roughly 3.5% of median household income.

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