Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook met with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office Wednesday amid a brewing trade war between the U.S. and China.
Cook entered the White House’s West Wing shortly before the scheduled meeting time at 1:45 p.m. White House officials later confirmed that the two had concluded their meeting and that Cook also had met with Larry Kudlow, the president’s top economic adviser, and had a meeting at the offices of U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the “primary focus and purpose of the meeting is to discuss trade,” adding that the meeting had been planned for several weeks.
The White House didn’t immediately provide additional information on what Trump and Cook had discussed.
Thus far, Apple doesn’t appear to be seriously affected by the growing trade tensions, but as a U.S.-based technology company that produces the majority of its products in China and lists the U.S. and China as its largest and third largest markets, respectively, that impact could change at any time. While products like the iPhone and iPad are designed in the U.S., they are produced by China-based factories from the likes of Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. and Pegatron Corp.
Apple generated $35 billion in revenue in the U.S. in this past holiday quarter, while it made nearly $18 billion in China. China has become one of Apple’s most important markets since Cook became CEO in 2011, and the company now has 41 retail stores in the region, the most outside of the U.S.
The sit-down took place in the Oval Office Wednesday afternoon. The morning of the meeting, Trump tweeted that he was “looking forward” to it and said the two would discuss “how the U.S. has been treated unfairly for many years, by many countries, on trade.”
In January 2016, about a year before becoming President, Trump said at a rally that if he became President, he would get “Apple to build their damn computers and things in this country instead of other countries.” Trump has also said that he’s asked Cook to build manufacturing plants in the U.S. Currently, Apple manufactures some iMac and Mac Pro computers in the U.S., but those devices represent only a minuscule portion of the company’s revenues.
The holy grail for Trump would clearly be Apple moving some of its iPhone mass-production to the U.S., something that Cook has indicated isn’t feasible. Cook, however, has noted that some iPhone parts, like its glass cover, are made in the U.S. In July, Trump said that Cook told him that Apple would build “three big plants” in the U.S., but Apple hasn’t confirmed such a plan.
While Cook has called Trump policies around DACA and immigration into question, his company embraced the Trump tax plans, making an announcement in January that it would invest $350 billion in the U.S., open a fourth headquarters in the country, and give most employees one-time $2500 stock bonuses.
In an interview with ABC News in January, Cook said that the corporate tax cuts will “result in job creation and a faster growing economy.”
On Tuesday evening, Cook, along with Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of government and environment affairs, attended a White House State Dinner. The Apple executives sat at the main table, alongside the President, First Lady Melania Trump, France’s President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, and Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo.
— With assistance by Toluse Olorunnipa
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