Apple seems to be trying to lower expectations on its willingness to ramp up US manufacturing, something that President Trump has repeatedly requested the company look into.
At a Goldman Sachs conference yesterday, Apple’s chief financial officer, Luca Maestri, responded to a question on manufacturing by indicated that Apple’s focus is on creating jobs in other sectors.
“One of the points that we are making in Washington is the fact that we have been a very large contributor to the US economy during the last decade,” Maestri said. “We made billions of investments in the United States. In the last 10 years, we created about 2 million jobs in this country — in the developer community in our retail stores in our call centers and through the supplier chain.”
Maestri says that “it’s very, very difficult to speculate” on Apple’s actions given that the Trump administration is yet to implement any changes that would encourage US manufacturing. But his comments still suggest that Apple is hoping to discourage talk of shifting manufacturing operations to the United States, which would be a difficult and expensive change.
Though Trump hasn’t brought it up since taking office, he’s been calling out Apple for building products outside the US even since before he stepped onto the campaign trail. In November, after the election, Trump said he spoke with Apple CEO Tim Cook about the issue. He mentioned the issue up again, briefly, in January, just days before his inauguration.
“I'm going to get Apple to start making their computers and their iPhones on our land, not in China,” Trump said during a speech last March. “How does it help us when they make it in China?”
There’s been some indication that Apple is at least looking into bringing more manufacturing to the US, though nothing firm so far. Apple has also been assembling its Mac Pro computers in the US since 2013.
This is a subject Apple has addressed and deflected for a long time. Steve Jobs is said to have once told President Obama that that manufacturing jobs “aren’t coming back.” And Tim Cook has said that the US just doesn’t have enough specialized workers. “You can take every tool and die maker in the United States and probably put them in a room that we’re currently sitting in,” he told 60 Minutes in 2015. “In China, you would have to have multiple football fields.”
Asked for comment, Apple directed The Verge to a New York Times article about US jobs it’s created. That article contains a statement similar to Maestri’s remarks, saying that Apple has created 2 million US jobs since the launch of the iPhone. The company also said it made “the unique decision to keep and expand” its call centers in the US. “We plan to continue to invest and grow across the US,” the statement concluded.
At the conference, Maestri was also asked about another favorite subject of Apple’s: bringing foreign cash back to the US. Maestri repeated a position we’ve heard from Apple again and again, that it believes taxes are too high. “Hopefully, there is a good chance that something is going to happen this year,” he said.
Maestri also discussed Apple’s view on a potential border tax, which is something that’s been floated by the Trump administration. Noting that it was hard to comment without seeing any legislation, Maestri said that “it is very hard for us to imagine that a border tax would be good for the US economy because it is a tax that would end up burdening the end consumer.”