Getting Apple to make iPhones in the US appears to be a sort of pet project for Donald Trump. On multiple occasions, the president-elect has expressed his desire to get the world’s most valuable company to manufacture its most profitable product in America instead of China. He says he’s talked to Apple CEO Tim Cook about it, proposing a “very large tax cut” as an incentive, and Apple has reportedly explored the possibility in the wake of Trump’s election.
More generally, Trump has viciously attacked America’s trade relationship with China. He’s vowed to name the country a currency manipulator (a notion that’s been disputed), and once suggested a massive 45% tariff on any Chinese imports (something he can’t legally do at once). A more recent CNN report said his administration is now considering tariffs as high as 10% on all imports. That’s lower, but the possibility still has some worried about a potential trade war with China, which would likely raise the costs of many US products (the iPhone included).
This could be shaky for Apple’s bottom line. As this chart from Statista shows, China has made up a huge percentage of iPhone shipments over the past few years, according to estimates from research firm Strategy Analytics. Any increased scrutiny would come at a particularly bad time, too, as the iPhone’s growth in China is already declining year-over-year, and overall revenue is down.
When President Obama asked Steve Jobs about the possibility of bringing Chinese manufacturing jobs to the US, the former Apple CEO reportedly said “those jobs aren’t coming back.” The chances of US-made iPhones are still improbable — China has made immense investments to foster iPhone production — but as we head into 2017, it will be interesting to see if Tim Cook can tell our next president the same.
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