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Tim Cook calls border separations ‘inhumane’ as White House denies iPhone tariff exemption

The New York Times published a profile of Tim Cook and his increasing role as a statesman between President Trump and China over trade policy negotiations. The piece included reporting that cites a source saying the White House does not plan to tax imported iPhones assembled in China, but today a White House advisor has denied knowledge of such an exclusion.

Separately, Tim Cook has publicly spoken out against the administration’s immigration policy of separating families at the border — adding that Apple plans to be a “constructive voice” on the issue. The Irish Times reports that the Apple CEO made the comments during a public appearance overseas:

Speaking in Dublin on Tuesday, Mr Cook described the situation as “inhumane” and said Apple would be working with people in the US government to try to be a “constructive voice” on the issue.

“It’s heartbreaking to see the images and hear the sounds of the kids. Kids are the most vulnerable people in any society. I think that what’s happening is inhumane, it needs to stop,” Mr Cook told The Irish Times.

We’ve always felt everyone should be treated with dignity and respect. In this case, that’s not happening.”

Apple has strategically taken public policy positions on issues that it views as directly affecting the company — including previous contentious immigration policies of the current administration — but Apple has not been as vocal on the border separation issue yet. It sounds like that will change soon.

And on the topic of trade tariffs affecting iPhone imports, this is what The New York Times reported just yesterday:

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.

While that may be accurate, at least one White House official has denied knowledge of such an exemption for Apple, CNBC reports:

White House trade advisor Peter Navarro said Tuesday he has no knowledge of an exemption for Apple’s iPhones in U.S. trade talks with China.

The Trump administration is reportedly eyeing a 10% tax on certain Chinese exports. We’ll update as this story develops over the coming days.

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Avatar for Zac Hall Zac Hall

Zac covers Apple news for 9to5Mac and hosts the 9to5Mac Happy Hour and 9to5Mac Watch Time podcasts.