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Tim Cook profile describes Apple CEO’s unexpected role in trade talks between Trump & China

A new profile from The New York Times dives into Tim Cook’s increasingly strong focus on politics, explaining how the Apple CEO “became tech’s top diplomat.” The report dives into Cook’s political relationships, and his role in ongoing trade issues with China…

The report specifically highlights Apple’s reliance on both China and the United States. While Cook has said in the past that he doesn’t expect the iPhone to be affected should a trade war commence, the report notes that the Trump administration has told Cook directly that it would not place tariffs on iPhones, despite them behind assembled in China:

The Trump administration has told Mr. Cook that it would not place tariffs on iPhones, which are assembled in China, according to a person familiar with the talks who declined to speak on the record for fear of upsetting negotiations.

Apple, however, is said to be concerned about “the Chinese-bureaucracy machine” kicking in, which it fears could put more scrutiny on its devices from the Chinese government:

Apple fears “the Chinese-bureaucracy machine is going to kick in,” meaning the Chinese government could cause delays in its supply chain and increase scrutiny of its products under the guise of national-security concerns, according to one person close to the company.

To help foster relationships on both sides of the issue, Tim Cook is said to be leading Apple executives and lobbyists in China and Washington D.C. This has allowed the company to build relationships with the Chinese administration, with efforts referred to as “Red Apple” by Foxconn employees, referencing the color of the Chinese Communist Party:

Apple executives and lobbyists in Beijing and Washington, led by Mr. Cook, have been trying to work both sides. They have fostered close ties to the administration of the country’s leader, Xi Jinping, an effort called Red Apple by employees at Apple’s manufacturing partner Foxconn, after the official color of the Chinese Communist Party.

Furthermore, Cook himself has met with U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer, though the two are said to “disagree on trade issues.” Cook, however, has avoided interactions with Peter Narvarro, the top trade advisor to President Trump.

The report also points out some steps Apple and Cook have taken to preserve a line of communication with Trump administration cabinet members, such as not publicly calling out Trump when he repeatedly stated that Apple was to build “multiple factories” in the United States.

Cook is also said to find the Trump administration more accessible than the Obama administration:

Mr. Trump has also told crowds this year that Apple planned to build multiple factories in the United States. Apple has no plans to do so and has not publicly corrected him.

Mr. Cook has found cabinet members more accessible in the Trump administration than the Obama administration, according to a person familiar with the talks, and he has seen eye to eye with Mr. Kudlow, Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary and, on some issues, Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary.

The full report is definitely worth a read if you’re at all curious, and perhaps skeptical,  about Cook’s interest in politics. Read it here.

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Avatar for Chance Miller Chance Miller

Chance is an editor for the entire 9to5 network and covers the latest Apple news for 9to5Mac.

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