President Trump called on
to shift production to the U.S. and out of China, reviving a longstanding criticism and pressuring the iPhone maker to help fulfill the administration’s economic goal of restoring American manufacturing.
In a Saturday morning tweet, Mr. Trump said that if Apple wants to avoid tariffs on its products, it should make those devices in the U.S. rather than China. He wrote: “Start building new plants now. Exciting!”
The tweet came a day after Apple said in a filing with the U.S. Trade Representative that proposed U.S. tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods would affect its watch, wireless headphones and other products, the first time the company has detailed specific damage from the trade battle. An Apple spokesman declined to comment.
Apple assembles most of its products, including the iPhone, in China. The Cupertino, Calif.-based company directly employs at least 80,000 people in the U.S. and claims responsibility for two million jobs around the country, including its own employees and those of suppliers, app developers and entrepreneurs who offer products across its devices. It spent $50 billion last year with more than 9,000 U.S. suppliers maintaining manufacturing operations across 38 states.
The Saturday tweet struck a friendlier tone than some of the missives Mr. Trump has fired off at companies such as Ford Motor Co. and
Though Mr. Trump has criticized other technology companies, including Alphabet Inc. and
over the past year, he has largely praised Apple. He has held up the company’s commitment to contribute $350 billion to the U.S. economy over the next five years as an example of the benefits of the administration’s tax cuts.
But a fissure is forming between the administration and the technology giant over trade issues with China. Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook has repeatedly urged Mr. Trump to avoid a trade battle, saying it would hurt American companies.
The company said in its filing to the U.S. Trade Representative that the administration’s proposed $200 billion in tariffs wouldn’t only “divert our resources and disadvantage Apple compared to foreign competitors” but also lead to higher “consumer prices, lower overall U.S. economic growth, and other unintended economic consequences.”
In his tweet, Mr. Trump rebutted those claims, “Apple prices may increase because of the massive Tariffs we may be imposing on China – but there is an easy solution where there would be ZERO tax, and indeed a tax incentive. Make your products in the United States instead of China,” he said.
Mr. Trump has been calling on Apple to return some manufacturing operations to the U.S. since he was on the campaign trail. After he won the election, he said in Time magazine that he told Mr. Cook that he wanted “Apple to build a great plant, your biggest and your best, even if it’s only a foot bigger than some place in China.”
Last year, Mr. Trump said Mr. Cook had promised Apple would build “three big, beautiful plants” in the U.S.. The company declined to comment on those remarks and hasn’t committed to building plants in the U.S. or manufacturing a major product in the U.S. in years.
In January, Apple committed to investing $5 billion over the next five years in U.S. companies that do advanced manufacturing in the U.S.
Apple’s largest contract manufacturer, Foxconn Technology Group, has committed to building a $10 billion plant in Wisconsin that will produce displays—not Apple products.
Write to Tripp Mickle at Tripp.Mickle@wsj.com