President Trump huddled Wednesday with Apple chief executive Tim Cook to discuss trade as the White House forges ahead with tariffs on China and other trade policies that have provoked sharp rebukes from the iPhone giant and its tech-industry peers.
Ahead of the meeting, Trump tweeted that he and Cook would discuss “many things, including how the U.S. has been treated unfairly for many years, by many countries, on trade.”
The private discussion at the White House came a day after Cook joined Trump for the president’s first-ever state dinner, honoring French President Emmanuel Macron.
A spokesman for Apple declined to comment on the meeting. The company spent roughly $2.1 million to lobby the U.S. government between Jan. 1 and March 31, including on issues such as trade and tariffs, according to an ethics report filed last week.
Earlier in April, Trump imposed tariffs on more than 1,300 categories of products from China — including some televisions and batteries but not smartphones — as part of his effort to crack down on Beijing firms believed to be stealing intellectual property from U.S. companies. As Trump explores a second round of tariffs, China has retaliated, targeting U.S. planes and cars.
The escalation has prompted fears of an international trade war, particularly in Silicon Valley, which sources and sells its products around the world. Greater China, which includes Taiwan and Hong Kong, is one of Apple’s largest markets.
The Information Technology Industry Council, a lobbying group for companies such as Apple, Google and Microsoft, previously has rebuffed Trump’s tariffs as “entirely counterproductive” — and stressed that the result would be higher prices on tech products that “penalize U.S. consumers.”
This week isn’t Cook’s first encounter with Trump.
The Apple executive joined fellow tech executives in December 2016, before Trump officially entered the White House, at a session designed to foster a peace between the new president-elect and some of his most outspoken critics. Cook had previously withdrawn Apple’s participation in the 2016 Republican convention that nominated Trump as a candidate because of his comments about race, immigrants and other minorities.
Since then, Cook has served in dual roles — as an advocate for Apple and the rest of the industry on issues such as taxes and education, and as a critic on some of Trump’s more controversial policies, such as his decision to end a program that protects youngsters brought to the United States illegally from being deported. Cook personally urged Trump to preserve those legal protections, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, on the sidelines of the president’s “tech week” summit at the White House last summer. Trump ultimately terminated the program protecting “dreamers.”
Along with trade, Apple long has engaged its Washington regulators on issues such as encryption. The issue has returned to the political fore following comments by key Trump administration officials who say the government needs a way to penetrate secure devices and communications to thwart terrorism.