China is very important to Apple. Not only is it the country where much of the company’s manufacturing takes place, but it’s also becoming one of the biggest markets for Apple goods. The company now has more retail stores in China than in any other country outside of the U.S.
So it should come as no surprise that when President Trump was thinking of starting a trade war, Apple CEO Tim Cook had a thing or two to say about it.
In an interview with Bloomberg TV’s The David Rubenstein Show: Peer-to-Peer Conversations, Cook recalled an April meeting with Trump in which he reportedly criticized the President’s approach to trade with China.
Here’s what Cook wanted Trump to know:
1. Free trade is good for all countries involved
Cook said his main message to Donald Trump was that cooperation and trade between two countries can actually be more beneficial for both than if each were to act on its own. Trump has tended towards protectionist policies when it comes to international trade, and there’s some evidence that it’s having an effect on the global economy. Cook said he showed Trump “some more analytical kinds of things to demonstrate why” free trade might benefit the U.S. more than protectionism.
2. The previous policies weren’t perfect
Although Cook said he didn’t support Trump’s policies, he credited part of Trump’s analysis of the U.S.’s historical relationship with China. “It’s true, undoubtedly true, that not everyone has been advantaged from [previous policies]—in either country—and we’ve got to work on that,” he said.
However, Cook emphasized that tariffs weren’t the solution to the problems in the Chinese-American trade relationship.
3. A trade war with China is bad for American businesses
While the ultimate goal of Trump’s presidency seems to be to support American businesses, Cook emphasized that his approach would actually be harmful to the very U.S. businesses he’s intending to support. Apple, for instance, relies on Chinese manufacturing and consumers.
While the company has so far been spared any serious harm in the trade war between the U.S. and China, it would be an easy and effective target for Chinese retaliation.