Apple’s Tim Cook on his close relationship with Trump: ‘I believe in direct conversation’

They are admittedly an odd pair.

Apple Inc. chief executive Tim Cook has been a vocal critic of some of President Donald Trump’s policies and an advocate for a number of liberal causes. Which makes his close relationship with the president surprising to some.

But Cook said Wednesday the reason is simple:

“I don’t believe in people speaking on my behalf.”

—Tim Cook

In an interview with ABC News that aired Wednesday, after Trump visited an Apple factory in Austin, Texas, Cook said he likes to cut out the middleman.

“I don’t believe in lobbyists,” he said. “I believe in direct conversation. I firmly believe in commitment. I hate polarization. I despise him.

Of course, that doesn’t mean Apple doesn’t lobby; just last week, the company reportedly hired a major Trump donor to lobby on its behalf for exemption from the new tariffs. Apple reportedly spent $60 million on lobbying from 2005 to 2018, including $6.6 million last year.

Cook has met with Trump fairly regularly over the past few years, often talking about trade and jobs.

That effort — by lobbyists and Cook — could pay off: Trump said on Wednesday he was “considering” exempting Apple from a new wave of tariffs on Chinese goods that are set to take effect in December. Cook has said in the past that such tariffs would hurt Apple’s bottom line and help its major competitors.

“I’m hoping the United States and China will come to an agreement, and so I don’t even want to go down that road right now,” Cook told ABC News. “I’m so convinced that [a trade deal] in the best interest of the United States and in the best interest of China, and so if you have two parties where there is a common best interest, there must be some kind of way forward here. And I think it will happen.

While Trump called for Apple iPhones to be made in America, Cook said that was unrealistic. “The way I think about it is that the iPhone is made everywhere,” he said, noting that while the devices are assembled in China, its glass and many silicone components are made in the United States.

“The iPhone is the product of a global supply chain,” Cook said, adding that US iPhone assembly is not “on the horizon.”

Apple shares AAPL,
are up 67% since the start of the year, compared to a 19% gain for the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA,
of which he is a part.

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