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Trump, Apple CEO Cook to talk trade at White House

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump was set to meet with Apple Inc (AAPL.O) Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook to discuss trade issues on Wednesday as the technology industry grapples with a U.S. spat over import tariffs with China, a manufacturing hub for the iPhone maker and other companies.

Apple CEO Tim Cook attends the annual session of China Development Forum (CDF) 2018 at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China March 26, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee

Trump, in a morning tweet, said he was looking forward to seeing Cook. “We will be talking about many things, including how the U.S. has been treated unfairly for many years, by many countries, on trade,” he wrote.

Apple, the world’s largest technology company, did not respond to a request for comment about what topics Cook planned to cover.

Apple and other hardware makers have deep ties with China, where many of their products are built for export around the world. Cook urged an easing of U.S.-China tensions and called for more open trade after the trade dispute flared last month between the world’s two largest economies.

Trump announced about $50 billion in planned tariffs on certain Chinese imports, China retaliated with proposed tariffs on some American goods and Trump responded that the United States could counter with $100 billion in additional levies.

U.S. and Chinese officials have been working to resolve the dispute. On Tuesday Trump said there was “a very good chance” the two countries could reach a deal as a U.S. delegation prepared to head to China in a few days.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during his Oval Office meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron (not pictured) following the official arrival ceremony for Macron at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 24, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Trump’s first round of import tariffs excluded most consumer electronics. But the second could have a more direct impact on U.S. shoppers by targeting cellphones, computers and other consumer goods and prompting price increases at Apple stores and other U.S. retailers.

Cook arrived at the White House earlier on Wednesday for meetings ahead of his afternoon meeting with Trump, an official said. CNBC broadcast footage of Cook leaving the White House and heading to the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office for a meeting.

The White House did not disclose Cook’s schedule, but White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said trade would be a “big part” of the discussion.

‘GOOD GUY’

After a rocky start during his election campaign, when Trump urged his supporters to boycott Apple and criticized the company for making its products in China, Cook has become one of his favorite go-to CEOs.

He has mentioned Cook, who he has called a “good guy,” by name at least 10 times during public remarks – including during his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January – as well as during several high-profile interviews.

The president frequently uses Cook and Apple as an example of how he says his tax cut package is creating jobs. Cook was among a small group of CEOs invited to Trump’s first state dinner at the White House on Tuesday night, held in honor of visiting French President Emmanuel Macron.

His praise for Cook aside, Trump, a Republican, has had a sometimes tense relationship with the U.S. technology industry, based in Democratic strongholds such as California’s Silicon Valley and in Seattle. He has clashed with the tech sector on issues including trade, immigration and the environment.

In addition to his concerns about trade, Cook has publicly objected to the president’s decision to end a program protecting from deportation young immigrants who were brought illegally to the United States as children. He was also among business leaders who criticized Trump after the president cast equal blame on white nationalists and anti-racism activists for violence last year in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Apple, with a market capitalization of $835 billion and 123,000 employees, 84,000 of whom are in the United States,

said in January it plans to spend $30 billion in capital expenditures in the United States over the next five years, $10 billion of which will be spent on data centers.

Apple said spending will create 20,000 new jobs through hiring at its existing campuses in Cupertino, Austin and a planned new campus.

Reporting by David Shepardson, Roberta Rampton and Susan Heavey in Washington and Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by David Gregorio, Jeffrey Benkoe and Frances Kerry

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