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Apple backs exemptions for Trump tariffs on Apple Watches, Mac parts

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Flextronics International Apple factory employees work on Apple Mac Pro computer assembly in Austin, TX, November 20, 2019.

Tom Brenner | Reuters

Apple filed eight public comments supporting temporary waivers for tariffs on Apple Watch and Mac Pro parts on Wednesday, according to the U.S. Trade Representative’s website.

The filings are a public step in a process that could reinstate a government-granted exclusion on 7.5% tariffs on Apple Watch imports and 25% tariffs on Mac Pro components. Apple’s watch and parts are subject to tariffs because they are imported from China. Apple’s most important product, the iPhone, has not been subject to tariffs.

The move is a reminder that companies are still struggling with tariffs levied during the Trump administration amid a trade war with China, especially after most exclusions were allowed to expire in late 2020 or early this year.

Finished Apple Watches and some Mac Pro parts are among the imports affected. The Apple Watch is a core product for Apple that sold more than 30 million units last year, according to Counterpoint Research estimates, while the Mac Pro is a high-end computer that costs $6,000 or more.

The U.S. Trade Representative said in in October that it would consider reinstating some tariff exclusions on a case-by-case basis, particularly if the product can only be sourced from China. The USTR asked companies who supported exclusions to answer questions including whether the products could be manufactured in the United States or other foreign countries that are not China.

The final manufacturing of Apple’s products takes place almost entirely in mainland China, although Apple has made efforts to diversify its manufacturing base.

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In its filing about Apple Watch tariffs, Apple said that the product is a “U.S.-designed smartwatch” and that it should receive an exclusion because it is widely used by consumers for mobile connectivity and health applications.

Apple said that the watch is “currently available from third countries in limited quantities,” which suggests that the company has tested production outside of China.

Apple also backs exclusions on seven components in the Mac Pro, including trackpads, mice, power supplies and circuit boards. In its filings, Apple said that the components are not available from sources outside of China, and are complicated and made to order.

The Mac Pro is the only computer Apple assembles in the United States. A contractor manufactures the Mac Pro desktop computer outside of Austin, Texas. Apple CEO Tim Cook took then-president Donald Trump on a tour of the facility in 2019.

Apple’s eight comments were among over 1700 entries filed to the USTR since October. Other technology companies including Google, Intel, and Sonos also weighted in on tariff exclusions, according to the USTR website.

An Apple representative declined to comment.

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