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Apple has a backup plan if the US-China trade war triggers iPhone tariffs

Debby Wu | Bloomberg/Taipei 12 Jun 19 | 01:57 AM

Apple has a backup plan if the US-China trade war gets out of hand.

The Cupertino-based company’s primary manufacturing partner has enough capacity to make all iPhones bound for the U.S. outside of China if necessary, according to a senior executive at Hon Hai Precision Industry.

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The Taiwanese contract manufacturer now makes most of the smartphones in the Chinese mainland.

China is a crucial cog in Apple’s business, the origin of most of its iPhones and iPads as well as its largest international market.

But President Donald Trump has threatened Beijing with new tariffs on about $300 billion worth of Chinese goods, an act that would escalate tensions dramatically while levying a punitive tax on Apple’s most profitable product.

Hon Hai, known also as Foxconn, is the American giant’s most important manufacturing partner. It will fully support Apple if it needs to adjust its production as the US-Chinese trade spat gets grimmer and more unpredictable, board nominee and semiconductor division chief Young Liu told an investor briefing in Taipei on Tuesday.

“Twenty-five percent of our production capacity is outside of China and we can help Apple respond to its needs in the US market," Liu said.

Liu also added that investments are now being made in India for Apple. “We have enough capacity to meet Apple’s demand."

Apple has not given Hon Hai instructions to move production out of China, but it is capable of moving lines elsewhere according to customers’ needs, Liu added.

It’s unclear if India will ever become a major production base. Foxconn is now running quality tests for the iPhone XR series there and plans to begin mass production at a facility in the suburbs of Chennai. Older models are already assembled at a Wistron plant in Bengaluru.

Foxconn has also agreed to build a 13,000-worker facility in Wisconsin in exchange for more than $4.5 billion in government incentives. But that project has since come under criticism for low-paying jobs, sudden dismissals and ever-changing goals. On Tuesday, executives reaffirmed that employment goal, saying construction remained on schedule and that it will hire as many as 2,000 Americans by the end of 2020.

It will also start making networking and server products for the U.S. market by the end of next year, on top of LCDs starting next year, Liu said.

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