President-elect Donald Trump provided new details Wednesday of his agreement with Softbank Chief Executive Masayoshi Son to generate thousands of jobs in the United States, part of a string of unusually direct negotiations between Trump and corporate America.
Speaking to reporters at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, Trump said telecom giant Sprint, which is owned by Tokyo-based Softbank, would take 5,000 jobs from other countries and move them to the United States. But Sprint said the effort is more complex, and nearly all of its roughly 30,000 employees already work here.
Spokesman David Tovar said the company had outsourced many of its customer service positions to third-party vendors with operations outside of the country. Sprint will request that those jobs be brought back to the country. In addition, it will hire new salespeople to staff its stores. It expects to complete the changes by the end of its 2017 fiscal year.
Sprint Chief Executive Marcelo Claure told Trump of the company's plans in a phone call Wednesday.
“We believe it is critical for business and government to partner together to create more job opportunities in the U.S. and ensure prosperity for all Americans,” Sprint Chief Executive Marcelo Claure said.
In addition, Trump touted plans by Virginia-based startup OneWeb to create 3,000 jobs. Last week, OneWeb announced it had received $1 billion in financing from Softbank. The satellite company is building a new factory in Florida and expects to generate high-skilled manufacturing and engineering jobs across the country over the next four years.
On Wednesday, Trump said bringing jobs back to the United States was “a nice change” and credited Son for the agreement. He also defended the announcement of the deal.
"Because of me they are doing 5,000 jobs in this country," Trump said.
Son met with Trump in New York earlier this month at the president-elect’s transition team headquarters at Trump Tower. At that time, Son announced plans to invest $50 billion in the United States and create 50,000 new jobs -- moves that Trump said were spurred by his upset presidential victory.
OneWeb founder Greg Wyler said in an interview that he had been discussing potential funding with Softbank for several months. But after meeting with Trump, Son increased the size of the investment in OneWeb and the number of new hires, Wyler said. OneWeb aims to manufacture enough satellites at its new Florida facility to provide broadband access to every school in the world by 2022.
“I don’t think the quantum and the drive would have happened at this level otherwise,” Wyler said.
Sprint said Wednesday that its 5,000 jobs were part of Son’s pledge but that the positions are being funded by Sprint, not Softbank.
In addition to its investment in OneWeb, Softbank announced in October that it had contributed $25 billion to an international fund to invest global technology companies over the next five years. The SoftBank Vision Fund also included capital from Saudi Arabia and outside investors.
Trump’s direct involvement in negotiating deals with individual companies has generated controversy over the role the president should play in shaping the economy. Trump enjoyed plenty of fanfare when he announced a deal to prevent a factory in Indiana from moving to Mexico but came under fire when he overestimated the number of jobs that would be saved. Trump publicly criticized Boeing for the high pricetag on Air Force One, forcing the company’s chief executive to promise last week to keep the cost down.
Conservative economists questioned Trump’s tactics, arguing that such efforts by the White House distort free markets. Democrats have cautioned that the deals could amount to corporate subsidies if they are accompanied by tax breaks or other preferential treatment.
Son has been seeking to acquire rival carrier T-Mobile in what would be one of the largest telecom mergers in history. However, he abandoned the effort in 2014 after pushback from the Federal Communications Commission, which raised antitrust concerns.
“It’s very important that at the outset of a new administration that legal doctrines that have been established for more than 100 years not be compromised with a desire to focus on opportunities for new jobs,” said Gene Kimmelman, a former Justice Department official who now leads the consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge. “They’re two separate issues, and they really should be kept that way.”