A US factory for Apple's top manufacturing partner is 'on the table'

As President-elect Donald Trump threatens a new, more restrictive trade policy, and tries to cajole companies like Apple to build its products in the United States, many of Asia’s top manufacturers are now seriously considering US manufacturing.

Sharp, a Japanese company recently purchased by Foxconn, Apple’s top manufacturing partner, is considering building a screen factory in the US, Nikkei reported on Friday.

One executive told Nikkei that the plan is “on the table” and the company will “make a decision carefully.”

The factory would likely be for manufacturing LCD screens for TVs and other home appliances, not the tiny, high-density screens that Apple uses or the next-gen OLED screens that Apple is eyeing for its next iPhone.

The potential scale of the facility is huge — it could be as big as a recent plant constructed in Guangzhou, China that cost $8.7 billion.

Foxconn is an investor in Softbank’s $100 billion Vision Fund. Softbank’s CEO told Trump that investments in the fund could create US jobs, but yesterday it was reported that the majority of the money will likely be used to “grab a piece of an undervalued technology company trading on the stock exchange,” or do a private-equity deal.

Apple reportedly asked Foxconn to explore making iPhones in the United States. However, the plan would be expected to significantly increase manufacturing costs, partially because many of the parts suppliers are based in Asia.

US-based factories would also likely use more automation than Asian factories because of the higher cost of labour.

Apple manufactures nearly all of its products in Asia, except for the low-volume Mac Pro, which is assembled in Texas, and some iMacs, which are built in Ireland.

Apple also owns a former manufacturing facility in Arizona currently being used as a data center which recently applied for special import-export manufacturing status.

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