Apple CEO Tim Cook made his first public appearance at the China Development Forum on Saturday, offering brief commentary on fears of a pending trade war with China sparked by President Donald Trump's trade tariffs.
Speaking to reporters in Beijing, Cook said he hopes "calm heads" prevail amidst increasingly strained relations between the U.S. and China, reports Reuters.
On Thursday, Trump signed an order that imposes strict trade tariffs on up to $60 billion in Chinese imports, calling it "the first of many" such actions, according to The New York Times. China responded with its own proposed tariffs impacting American-grown produce, manufactured items and other goods.
The tit-for-tat response to some experts suggests the U.S. and China are on the verge of entering a trade war. How wide the sanctions will span is unknown, though Trump has in the past proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum, materials vital to major American exporters.
"I'm cognizant that in both the U.S. and China, there have been cases where everyone hasn't benefited, where the benefit hasn't been balanced," Cook said.
Cook offered his thoughts on the matter following a speaking engagement at the China Development Forum, the first of three at the three-day event. The annual government-sponsored conference centering around international trade and business often sees executives from western corporations in attendance as they attempt to bolster ties with high ranking officials in the Chinese central government.
Apple is in the midst of its own problems with local regulations tied to customer data storage. In February, Apple migrated iCloud keys of Chinese users to a local server farm in compliance with new Chinese government regulations. The move stirred controversy, with rights advocates decrying the decision as detrimental to user privacy.
"My belief is that businesses should be engaged with governments in countries where they are doing business, whether they agree or disagree," Cook said, echoing statements offered to press prior to the transition.
The lone international co-chair of this year's gathering, Cook earlier today joined BlackRock CEO Laurence Fink in a talk, "Addressing the Challenge of Global Inequality," hosted by Vice Chairman and Secretary General of the China Development Research Foundation Lu Mai.
Other notable attendees at this year's conference include IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Qualcomm CEO Steven Mollenkopf and Palantir's Peter Thiel.
Cook is scheduled to be on stage at the event's official opening ceremony on Sunday, which will be followed by an appearance at the "Building Consensus for Common Development" discussion on Monday. At last year's China Development Forum, Cook discussed a range of topics, from globalization to cybersecurity and government surveillance.
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