In a speech at the China Development Forum in Beijing on Saturday, Apple CEO Tim Cook rejected isolationism as an economic strategy, and implicitly critiqued President Donald Trump’s “America First” trade agenda. During his presidential campaign, Trump criticized Apple for building many of its products in China, but Cook’s comments accompanied the announcement that his company will open major new research and development centers there.
Cook, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, acknowledged that globalization has had unequal impacts within countries, but “in general is great for the world.”
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“I think the worst thing," Cook said, "Would be to—because [globalization] didn’t help everyone—is to say it’s bad and do less of that." He also argued that when countries “isolate themselves, it’s not good for their people.”
Though not mentioning Trump by name, the comments reaffirm Apple’s general stance against the President’s policies on trade and immigration. Apple joined a group of tech companies in opposing Trump’s first-draft ban on travelers from certain predominantly Muslim countries, which potentially affected many of its international workers. The company did not line up against the second version of the ban, which was not set to affect existing green card and visa holders.
Apple also has a lot riding on Trump’s proposals to curtail the H-1B visa program, which makes it easier for tech companies to hire internationally. According to some critics, the program allows tech companies to hire foreign workers more cheaply than Americans.
Trump’s agenda has also triggered direct threats to Apple in China, as when the state-run Global Times declared that domestic iPhone sales could suffer if Trump pursued protectionism or other aggressive trade measures. In fact, Apple’s sales in China have begun to slow, though largely thanks to Chinese competition, not trade policy.