Tim Cook’s Comments on Manufacturing and Supply Chain Questions sixcolors.com

From Jason Snell’s transcript of Apple’s third-quarter 2019 conference call:

Wamsi Mohan, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch: Tim, the China trade situation remains sort of fluid over here and more recently you asked for some tariff exceptions, were not granted those. How are you thinking about the longer term footprint for manufacturing and can you talk about any potential alternatives that you’ve looked at and considered in moving parts of production potentially out of China.

Tim Cook: Yeah I know there’s been a lot of speculation around the topic of different moves and so forth. I wouldn’t put a lot of stock into those, if I were you. The way I view this is, the vast majority of our products are kind of made everywhere. There’s a significant level of content from the United States, and a lot from Japan to Korea to China, and the European Union also contributes a fair amount. And so that’s the nature of a global supply chain. Largely, I think that will carry the day in the future as well. In terms of the exclusions, we’ve been making the Mac Pro in the U.S., we want to continue doing that. And so we’re working and investing currently in capacity to do so, because we want to continue to be here. And so that’s what’s behind the exclusions. And so we’re explaining that and hope for a positive outcome.

Apple’s earnings call was held on the same day that the New York Times published an article speculating that upcoming generations of iPhone would be manufactured, in part, in Vietnam. Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that the new Mac Pro would be made in China and, last week, the objectively racist American president1 said that tariff waivers would not be granted to Apple for Mac Pro production. He also said in an interview that Apple might announce a new factory in Texas, but the new Mac Pro ships this autumn, so I don’t see how that’s immediately relevant.

Cook’s answer to this question seems like it contradicts that reporting somewhat, but he’s very careful to hedge his language. I don’t think he’s being cagey, though. A reasonable interpretation of this might be an acknowledgement that a small percentage of iPhones might be made in India, Vietnam, and Brazil for some markets, but not necessarily the U.S., and not necessarily indicating a large geographic shift in manufacturing.

  1. That’s not strictly relevant to this post; I just thought I’d remind you that he is, in fact, broadcasting openly racist statements from among the world’s most powerful offices. ↥︎