Tim Cook says China has not targeted Apple despite an escalation in trade tensions

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, California, June 3, 2019.

Mason Trinca | Reuters

China has not targeted Apple at all in the ongoing trade dispute between Beijing and Washington, according to CEO Tim Cook.

“The Chinese have not targeted Apple at all, and, I don’t anticipate that happening, to be honest,” Cook said in an interview with CBS News Tuesday, where he also spoke on a number of other subjects including immigration, fake news and how much time consumers spend on their iPhones.

In an escalating tit-for-tat trade war between the world’s two largest economies, China on Saturday raised tariffs on $ 60 billion worth of U.S. goods — that included slapping higher duties on more than 5,000 American products by as high as 25%. Beijing’s move came in retaliation for President Donald Trump’s decision to hike duties on $ 200 billion of Chinese imports.

A 25% tariff on an iPhone could potentially raise the smartphone’s price by more than a hundred U.S. dollars — that would make those devices a lot more expensive in China in yuan terms.

Cook told CBS News that while such a scenario will certainly hurt sales, he doesn’t “anticipate it happening.”

“I know people think the iPhone is made in China. The iPhone is assembled in China. The truth is, the iPhone is made everywhere,” he told CBS News. “And so a tariff on the iPhone would hurt all of those countries, but the one that would be hurt the most is this one.”

There is extraordinary amounts of detailed information about people, that I don’t think should really exist, that are out there today.

Tim Cook

Apple CEO

On privacy and fake news

Cook also told CBS News he was worried about the impact of fake news as well as the existence of detailed information about people on the internet.

Tech companies like Facebook and Twitter have faced increased scrutiny in recent years over their roles in the spread of misinformation and hate speech.

For its part, Apple is “not an amplifier for fake news or pitting groups against one another,” Cook told CBS News. He added that Apple News, the company’s news aggregation service, relies on people — not machines — to curate information.

Privacy was an important theme at Apple’s annual developers conference on Monday. The tech giant announced an option called “Sign in with Apple” that can be added to apps, where users may log in without having to create a separate username and password.

Apple said the service does not gather any personal data and that users have the option to scramble their email addresses so that a third party never gets to store it.

“We see privacy as a fundamental human right,” Cook told CBS News. “There is extraordinary amounts of detailed information about people, that I don’t think should really exist, that are out there today.”

Read the extended CBS News interview transcript from Cook’s interview here.

— CNBC’s Steve Kovach contributed to this report.

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