Democracy Dies in Darkness

The Switch

Apple faces Trump’s ire after company says its products would be hurt by tariffs

September 8, 2018 at 2:06 PM

President Trump speaks in 2017, at the White House, during an American Technology Council roundtable with, from left, Tim Cook, Apple's chief executive; Satya Nadella, Microsoft's chief executive; and Jeffrey P. Bezos, founder and chief executive of Amazon.com, who owns The Washington Post. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

President Trump on Saturday took aim at Apple after the tech giant said the White House's proposed tariffs on China could result in price increases on popular consumer devices such as AirPods, the company's wireless headphones, and the Apple Watch.

In a tweet, Trump said there's an “easy solution” to Apple's potential woes that also came with a tax break: “Make your products in the United States instead of China. Start building new plants now. Exciting!"

Apple declined to comment on the president's tweet.

Earlier this week, Apple said in a regulatory filing that the president's proposed $200 billion in fresh tariffs on China would cover “a wide range of Apple products,” from its Mac Mini computer to cables, chargers and laptop cases. “Our concern with these tariffs is that the U.S. will be hardest hit, and that will result in lower U.S. growth and competitiveness and higher prices for U.S. consumers,” the company said.

Since then, though, Trump has threatened an additional $267 billion of tariffs on China, a move revealed Friday that could cover virtually all Chinese-made goods entering the United States.

The tariffs are top of mind for Apple chief executive Tim Cook, who has personally lobbied Trump for months on issues of taxes and trade, even dining with the president and first lady Melania Trump at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., last month. Cook's personal diplomacy stands in stark contrast to some of his peers in the tech industry, who haven't engaged Trump directly — and often are on the receiving end of far more aggressive tweets attacking their business practices.

Apple, like other tech giants, has benefited from the last year's overhaul to the U.S. tax code, and the company has committed to returning much of the $252 billion in cash it held abroad. In January, the company also announced its “direct contribution” to the U.S. economy through investments and other spending would exceed $350 billion over the next five years, while it would establish a new Apple campus to house technical support for customers. Some components for Apple products, including glass from manufacturers like Corning, are made in the United States, the company has said.

Trump previously has claimed that Apple is building new plants in the United States, but the iPhone maker has not announced any such plans.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said Apple chief executive Tim Cook had dined with the Trumps at the White House last month. It was at the president's golf club in New Jersey.


Tony Romm is a technology policy reporter at The Washington Post. He has spent more than eight years covering the ways that tech companies like Apple, Facebook and Google navigate the corridors of government -- and the regulations that sometimes result.

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