A chain of emails obtained by The Verge show that Tim Cook personally worked to ensure Apple was as unaffected by China tariffs as possible. The emails were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
The emails in question are from last summer, when Apple was working to get tariff exemptions for various Mac Pro parts imported from China. The emails show that Cook and his staff spoke multiple times with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and his office.
“Tim and POTUS had a discussion today about this as well which I can fill you in on,” an Apple staffer wrote on July 5th, after sending the specific tariff lines that affected parts of the Mac Pro. “Tim was hoping to speak to the Ambassador sometime this weekend if at all possible to follow up.”
The report goes on to explain:
Cook and Lighthizer’s staff remained in contact in the wake of the meeting, with at least one subsequent call taking place at 4:30am on August 5th. Much of the exchange is redacted as sensitive business information, but it is likely that the business impact of the tariffs was discussed, with one Apple staffer telling a USTR employee, “whatever can be done on the front end would be hugely impactful.”
Apple has largely been successful in its requests for tariff exemptions. For the Mac Pro parts, many of Apple’s requests were granted. Apple also avoided tariffs on iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks. Most recently, the 15% tariffs on Apple Watch were lifted following Apple’s requests for exemption.
Cook’s close involvement in tariff negotiations isn’t necessarily surprising. Multiple reports have detailed the Apple CEO’s close relationship with President Trump, including the fact that the Trump Administration even turns to Cook for advice on certain economic matters.