Amazon’s review of Toronto could escalate tension with Trump

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Amazon Brazil's country manager Alex Szapiro poses for a photograph during an interview with Reuters in Sao Paulo, Brazil October 17, 2017. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker - RC1F41C4C820

TORONTO: Amazon.com Inc’s inclusion of Canada’s largest city on a list of 20 finalists for a massive new campus could escalate tensions between the tech giant and US President Donald Trump.

Amazon said on Jan 18 that Toronto and 19 US locales made the first cut in a contest to find a second headquarters where it promises to invest US$5bil (RM19.68bil) and create 50,000 jobs.

As it reviews Toronto, Amazon must weigh whether advantages including Canada’s open immigration policy, top technical schools and universal healthcare outweigh any potential blowback from Trump, who has heavily pressured US companies to invest domestically.

“There could be consequences politically for making a decision to invest outside of the US,” said Shauna Brail, director of the University of Toronto’s urban studies programme.

 Amazon said Thursday it expects to make a decision this year. It is unclear how choosing Toronto might affect worsening trade relations between Ottawa and Washington. Other bidders include Washington and two surrounding communities: Montgomery County, Maryland and Northern Virginia.

“The international politics is for Amazon to deal with,” said Toby Lennox, CEO of Toronto Global, which submitted the bid for Toronto and surrounding cities with support of provincial and federal governments. “We are just going to put forward our best offer possible.”

Canadian federal officials declined to discuss what steps the government might take to campaign on behalf of Toronto or comment on how that might affect relations between Canada and the United States.

“Canada is a beacon of stability, reliability and openness,” Economic Minister Navdeep Bains said in an e-mailed statement. “We offer a low-risk, business-friendly environment with the lowest business taxes and costs in the G7.”

Amazon is already expanding in one major Canadian city. In November unveiled plans to open a second corporate office in Vancouver, doubling staff to 2,000 by early 2020.

The company disclosed that it was considering boosting investment in Canada just a day after Apple’s said it would boost investment in the United States. The iPhone maker promised to open a new US campus, hire 20,000 people and spend US$30bil (RM118.12bil) in a five-year US investment plan.

The search for a second North American headquarters after Seattle set off a frenzied competition, with some 238 initial submitting applications, offering incentives including big tax breaks.

Toronto’s bid shied away from promising tax breaks, while New Jersey offered US$7bil (RM27.55bil) in financial incentives for Amazon to choose Newark. Atlanta’s suburb of Stonecrest offered 345 acres of industrial land to create a new city called Amazon, making Bezos mayor for life.

Here is the full list of candidates:
1. Atlanta
2. Austin, Texas
3. Boston
4. Chicago
5. Columbus, Ohio
6. Dallas
7. Denver
8. Indianapolis
9. Los Angeles
10. Miami
11. Montgomery County, Maryland
12. Nashville, Tennessee
13. Newark
14. New York City
15. Northern Virginia
16. Philadelphia
17. Pittsburgh
18. Raleigh, North Carolina
19. Toronto
20. Washington — Reuters