Trump: Tim Cook promised Apple will build three U.S. manufacturing plants

President Donald Trump says Tim Cook promised him that Apple will build three manufacturing plants in the United States.

Trump, in a 45-minute interview with the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, said Apple’s CEO promised the three plants in private. It remains unclear where the plants will be located and when they would be built.

“(Cook) promised me three big plants — big, big, big,” said Trump. “I said you know, Tim, unless you start building your plants in this country, I won’t consider my administration an economic success. He called me, and he said they are going forward.”

If Cook’s alleged promise to Trump is true, it marks a significant shift in Apple and its manufacturing strategy. Apple manufactures its iPhones and other devices primarily in China. During his presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly criticized Apple for making its products in China rather than in the United States.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

Trump’s comment marks the latest chapter in a fraught relationship between the president and Silicon Valley’s most valuable company over the past couple of years.

In February last year, Trump, who was then the front-runner in the Republican primaries, asked for a boycott of Apple products to pressure Apple to reverse its strong pro-encryption stance. Earlier that year, Apple refused to hand over to the FBI the iPhone log-in credentials of the San Bernardino shooter.

After Trump was inaugurated in January, the clash continued. In February this year, Cook wrote a memo to his employees, saying he was considering legal options to stop Trump’s executive order to ban immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries.

In June, Cook reportedly called the White House to urge Trump to keep the United States in the Paris Climate Agreement. Trump pulled out of the agreement a day after Cook’s alleged call.

“We’re dramatically different,” Cook said of Trump in a Bloomberg feature story that was published later that month. “At the end of the day, I’m not a person who’s going to walk away and say, ‘If you don’t do what I want, I leave.’ I’m not on a council, so I don’t have those kind of decisions. But I care deeply about America… America’s more important than bloody politics from my point of view.”

But not all news involving Cook and Trump has been rocky. In May, Cook pledged to invest $1 billion in U.S. companies that do advanced manufacturing. The White House cited the pledge as a sign of optimism around Trump’s domestic economic agenda.

Apple has previously taken credit for about 2 million jobs in the United States, including employees, suppliers and app developers. The Cupertino-based company directly employs 80,000 people in the United States.

Apple’s largest supplier, Foxconn, is reportedly looking to set up plants in the United States as well. The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that Foxconn is looking to produce display panels in Wisconsin.

Trump in Tuesday’s interview said he wanted unemployed people to move to places where there are new manufacturing jobs.

“When you have an area that just isn’t working like upper New York state, where people are getting very badly hurt, and then you’ll have another area 500 miles away where you can’t get people, I’m going to explain, you can leave. It’s OK,” said Trump. “Don’t worry about your house.”

Photo: Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, speaks as President Donald Trump listens during an American Technology Council roundtable in the State Dinning Room of the White House on June 19, 2017, in Washington. (Alex Brandon/AP)

 

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