President Donald Trump made his way to Austin Wednesday to tour an Apple computer-assembly plant. Trump met with Apple CEO Tim Cook during the tour, and Cook announced that the company has broken ground on a previously announced $1 billion, 3 million-square-foot Apple campus north of Austin that’s expected to initially employ 5,000 people.
But the visit came in the midst of a U.S. trade war with China, where billions of dollars of Apple products are made, and where many of the parts included in Apple computers originate.
Jordan Fabian is White House correspondent for Bloomberg News, and says Cook has worked hard to establish a close relationship with Trump. That’s in contrast with other tech executives who have clashed with the president.
“Cook has had dinner with the president at his private golf club in New Jersey,” Fabian says. “He’s built a relationship with his daughter Ivanka, who’s also a senior advisor in the White House. And all of this with the aim of trying to get the Trump administration to exempt Apple from some of these tariffs that the U.S. is putting on imports from China.”
And it has worked, Fabian says. Apple received 10 of 15 tariff exemptions it requested. The company said those exemptions made it possible for Apple to build its high-end Mac Pro computers in Austin. Many parts for the Mac Pro are imported into the U.S. from China.
“Now Apple is asking for a second round – for a new round of tariffs that’s gone into place in September for parts for the iPhone, AirPods, etc.,” Fabian says. “The president, down there speaking in Austin, said he’s exploring those exemptions.”
Cook’s strategy of cozying up to Trump is one that some foreign leaders have also adopted, to great effect, Fabian says.
The Mac Pro – a computer that costs $5,000 or more – represents a small portion of Apple’s worldwide production, and Apple has assembled it in Austin since 2013. The new version is expected to begin shipping in December.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.