Apple's Mac Pro tariff relief requests approved despite Trump opposition

Apple gained US approval to avoid tariffs on Chinese imports for the upcoming Mac Pro computer, even though President Donald Trump indicated the company's waiver requests would be rejected.

Ten of Apple's 15 requests for exclusions from 25% duties have been approved, according to the US Trade Representative's office. Customs and Border Protection determined it can administer the waiver from the levies when the goods enter the US. On Thursday, Apple's request to win exemptions for the components had moved to an advanced stage in the approval process.

Trump had signaled that relief from tariffs would be rejected, saying in a July 26 tweet that "Apple will not be given Tariff waiver, or relief, for Mac Pro parts that are made in China. Make them in the USA, no Tariffs!"

But the president later told reporters "we'll work it out" and that "I think they're going to announce they're going to build a plant in Texas."

Bloomberg reported in June that Apple was shifting production of its new Mac Pro to China from a facility in Texas. The Cupertino, California-based company hasn't suggested there are plans for new factories in the state, though Apple has said it will expand its local headquarters there.

Apple's requests involved goods that are part of $200bn in Chinese products hit with tariffs last September. Trump increased the duty on that batch to 25% from 10% in May. The rate is due to rise to 30% on October 15, including on another $50bn of goods also hit last year.

Trump ordered duties on about $300bn of essentially all remaining Chinese imports starting September 1, but he delayed imposition on some consumer products until December 15.

Apple has said those duties would affect nearly all of its major products, including iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, Apple Watches, AirPods and the iMac.

Apple had so far asked for exclusions on Mac Pro parts and accessories, as well as its Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad. Requests for tariff relief for the overall exterior enclosure, the Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad and some key internal components for the Mac Pro have been approved, while requests for wheels and other components are still under a substantive review by the USTR.

Exclusion decisions are based on whether a product is available only from China, is strategically important or related to Chinese industrial programs, and whether duties will "cause severe economic harm" to the company or US interests, the USTR has said.

In its 15 requests for exclusions posted July 18, Apple said the devices or components are not related to Chinese industrial programs – and that "there are no other sources for this proprietary, Apple-designed component."