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Tim Cook personally petitioned feds during US-China tariff spat

Apple CEO Tim Cook chose to take a direct and personal approach when facing potential billion-dollar tariffs on parts and finished goods imported from China.

On July 8, Tim Cook spoke directly with U.S. Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, in hopes of seeking exemption from import tariffs.

The tariffs would have affected imported parts used in the U.S. assembly of the Mac Pro. The parts would have been subjected to a 25 percent import tax, which likely would have made assembly in the U.S. unviable.

"Tim and POTUS had a discussion today about this as well which I can fill you in on," an Apple staffer wrote on July 5, after sending the specific tariff lines that affected parts of the Mac Pro, in a report obtained by The Verge. "Tim was hoping to speak to the Ambassador sometime this weekend if at all possible to follow up."

While there's no direct record of any calls that were made, Apple was made exempt from the 25 percent import tax. Another 15 percent tariff that could have impacted iPhones and MacBook was ultimately never put in place.

Both Lighthizer and Cook's staff had contact after the meeting, including an early-morning call in early August. The Verge states that the report features extensively redacted information, though it can be assumed the discussion was primarily around tariffs. In the report, an Apple staffer had told U.S. Trade Representative staff, "whatever can be done on the front end would be hugely impactful."

Apple has taken a direct, hands-on approach since the tariff talk has started. In August, President Donald Trump and Cook met for dinner to discuss how tariffs could potentially harm Apple while sparing competitors. Trump praised Cook for making a "good case" against import tariffs.

Cook has gone on record in an interview with Fox Business saying, "My perspective is, engagement is always best," in February. "Simply standing on the sidelines yelling doesn't accomplish anything."