There has been no shortage of Donald Trump in the news over the last few months. If you don’t believe me, go tune in to any news channel and you’ll likely find a Trump story being aired right now. But the presidential candidate has yet to crack into the tech news cycle, until now.
During a recent campaign speech at Liberty University in Virginia, Trump promised the world he would force Apple to manufacture their hardware in the U.S. instead of overseas. “We’re going to get Apple to build their damn computers and things in this country instead of other countries,” Trump said towards end of his speech. The statement was made as he was discussing how to bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S.
What was noticeably absent were specifics regarding his plan to coax Apple into manufacturing products here in the U.S. The only indication Trump gave were statements he made elsewhere in the speech where he proposed a 35 percent tax on businesses making goods overseas. It’s safe to assume that’s his plan but it’s ironic considering Trump advertises himself as a staunch advocate of free trade.
Currently, the cylindrical Mac Pro is the only product Apple assembles in the U.S. in a factory located in Austin, Texas. For their other products, Apple relies heavily on the cheaper labor of Chinese manufacturers to assemble products like the iPhone. As a result of the decades of outsourcing by U.S. companies, to say the domestic manufacturing industry is weak is an understatement. It’s unlikely that any substantial change will happen in the industry, and if it ever does it will probably take decades to turn the trend around.
Apple was featured on 60 Minutes last month and CEO Tim Cook did, however, make a point to explain that Apple outsources their manufacturing not because of the lower wages, but for the skills of the workers that assemble their devices. “China puts an enormous focus on manufacturing. The U.S., over time, began to stop having as much vocational kinds of skills. I mean, you can take every tool and die maker in the United States and probably put them in a room that we’re currently sitting in. In China, you would have to have multiple football fields,” Cook said.
It’s hard for me to believe the cheaper labor doesn’t play a major factor in the decision, but I can understand Cook’s hesitance to avoid the subject on 60 Minutes.
Trump has been the frontrunner for the Republican primary elections and he has made more than a few statements which have raised eyebrows during the course of his campaign. The comments about Apple are pretty mellow considering some other remarks he’s made.
In spite of all his flaws, Trump makes an interesting proposition that could lead to many new jobs in the U.S., tax incentives, and tax breaks for moving manufacturing back home could be motivation enough for some companies to make the jump. However, there’s really no reason for Apple to move its manufacturing back home at this point, but it will be interesting to see what happens should there be a Trump presidency.