WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump met with Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook on Wednesday to discuss trade issues as the technology industry grapples with a U.S. spat over import tariffs with China, a manufacturing hub for the iPhone maker and other companies.
Trump, in a morning tweet, said he was looking forward to seeing Cook. “We will be talking about many things, including how the U.S. has been treated unfairly for many years, by many countries, on trade,” he wrote.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said on Wednesday afternoon that the meeting was underway, and that “the primary focus” was to discuss trade. A White House official said later the meeting had concluded, but there was no word yet on details of the discussions.
Earlier, Apple did not respond to a request for comment about what topics Cook planned to cover.
Apple, the world’s largest technology company, and other hardware makers have deep ties with China, where many of their products are built for export around the world. Cook urged an easing of U.S.-China tensions and called for more open trade after the trade dispute flared last month between the world’s two largest economies.
Trump announced about $50 billion in planned tariffs on certain Chinese imports, China retaliated with proposed tariffs on some American goods and Trump responded that the United States could counter with $100 billion in additional levies.
U.S. and Chinese officials have been working to resolve the dispute. On Tuesday Trump said there was “a very good chance” the two countries could reach a deal as a U.S. delegation prepared to head to China in a few days.
Trump’s first round of import tariffs excluded most consumer electronics. But the second could have a more direct impact on U.S. shoppers by targeting cellphones, computers and other consumer goods and prompting price increases at Apple stores and other U.S. retailers.
A White House official said Cook also met on Wednesday with the director of the White House National Economic Council, Larry Kudlow. Additionally, CNBC broadcast footage of him heading from the White House to the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office.
After a rocky start during his election campaign, when Trump urged his supporters to boycott Apple and criticized the company for making its products in China, Cook has become one of his favorite go-to CEOs.
He has mentioned Cook, who he has called a “good guy,” by name at least 10 times during public remarks — including during his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January — as well as during several high-profile interviews.
The president frequently uses Cook and Apple as an example of how he says his tax cut package is creating jobs. Cook was among a small group of CEOs invited to Trump’s first state dinner at the White House on Tuesday night, held in honor of visiting French President Emmanuel Macron.
His praise for Cook aside, Trump, a Republican, has had a sometimes tense relationship with the U.S. technology industry, based in Democratic strongholds such as California’s Silicon Valley and in Seattle. He has clashed with the tech sector on issues including trade, immigration and the environment.
Sanders said in response to a question that Trump would be “open” to meeting with Amazon.com Inc chief executive Jeff Bezos, who the president has repeatedly criticized.
In addition to his concerns about trade, Cook has publicly objected to the president’s decision to end a program protecting from deportation young immigrants who were brought illegally to the United States as children. He was also among business leaders who criticized Trump after the president cast equal blame on white nationalists and anti-racism activists for violence last year in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Apple, with a market capitalization of $835 billion and 123,000 employees, 84,000 of whom are in the United States, said in January it plans to spend $30 billion in capital expenditures in the United States over the next five years, $10 billion of which will be spent on data centers.
Apple said spending will create 20,000 new jobs through hiring at its existing campuses in Cupertino, Austin and a planned new campus.