AUSTIN, Nov 21, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – President Donald Trump toured Apple’s
Texas manufacturing plant Wednesday in a visit marking a brief truce in the
White House war on Silicon Valley and an unlikely “bromance” with chief
executive Tim Cook.
“He is a very special person as far as this country is concerned,” Trump
said of Cook as they stood side-by-side, adding that he’s done a “great job.”
The visit gave Trump a chance to hail American manufacturing and step back,
at least temporarily, from his tirade against big technology firms, including
Apple, which he criticizes for manufacturing its products abroad.
Trump praised what he said was an “incredible product that is made right
“When you build in the United States you don’t have to worry about
tariffs,” he said, referring to those waged by China.
Apple announced in September it would keep making its Mac Pro computer in
the United States, after obtaining tariff exemptions for some components in
the high-end computers.
The developments show an unusual Trump-Cook relationship in sharp contrast
with the president’s attacks on other tech giants.
“On the face of it, it’s an unlikely relationship,” said Roger Kay, analyst
at Endpoint Technologies Associates who follows the sector.
Cook, who supported Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016, has been able to
sidestep much of Trump’s anger by being “very diplomatic,” Kay said.
“He’s not saying ‘I love Trump,’ but he’s not saying ‘I hate Trump,'” said
“He hasn’t made any disparaging public comments. By not ruffling Trump’s
feathers he’s gotten quite a lot out of it.”
Cook and Trump remain far apart on a number of issues including trade and
immigration, with Apple opposing the White House plan to end protection for
so-called “dreamers” who came to the US as children.
While Apple has acknowledged it has paid some tariffs imposed by Trump on
goods imported from China, the iPhone maker has so far avoided a major impact
from the trade friction.
– Sidestepping Trump tirades –
Trump, who has called Google and social media firms “biased” and been
especially critical of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos — accusing him of using his
personal investment in The Washington Post for politics — has had mostly
praise for the Apple CEO.
“Other companies hire very expensive consultants,” Trump said in August.
“But the only one who calls me is Tim Cook. He calls me whenever there’s a
Trump, who once referred to the CEO as “Tim Apple,” appears to be forging a
friendly relationship with Cook even when he offers criticism.
In one tweet, he seemed to fret over the design of the latest iPhones which
no longer have a home button.
“To Tim: The Button on the IPhone was FAR better than the Swipe!” Trump
According to The Wall Street Journal, Cook has quietly cultivated his
relationship with Trump through the president’s daughter Ivanka and her
husband Jared Kushner, both of whom advise the president.
Trump appears to have softened some of his positions on tariffs after
hearing Cook’s argument that punishing Apple would help foreign rivals such
“Tim Cook has gone out of his way it seems to develop a relationship with
President Trump because he was concerned I’m sure of the potential impact on
the business” from Trump’s policies, said Bob O’Donnell of Technalysis
Because most of Apple products are manufactured in China, “there was a
potentially large impact on profitability,” O’Donnell said.
“Tim Cook is trying to be pragmatic and trying to address the issue by
tackling it head on.”
Apple, which benefited from legislation signed by Trump that reduced taxes
on repatriated profits from 35 to 15 percent, has responded to White House
efforts by pledging to invest $350 billion in the US economy by 2023 through
its own manufacturing and from suppliers.
O’Donnell said that Cook’s efforts to forge a relationship with Trump has
some risks as well in Silicon Valley, where the president is unpopular.
“I think some people who are Apple fans and don’t like Trump find it a
little disconcerting,” O’Donnell said.
Kay said however that Apple employees and customers understand the needs of
the business, and that Cook’s efforts might even ease some of the tensions
between the White House and the tech industry.
“Maybe Tim can create a rosier halo around Silicon Valley,” Kay said.
“If he puts a human face on Silicon Valley, it could give Trump a slightly