Key Words: Apple’s Tim Cook on his close relationship with Trump: ‘I believe in direct conversation’

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They’re an admittedly odd pair.

Apple Inc. Chief Executive Tim Cook has been an outspoken critic of some of President Donald Trump’s policies and an advocate for a number of liberal causes. Which makes his close relationship with the president surprising to some.

But Cook said Wednesday that the reason is simple:

“I don’t believe in having people talk on my behalf.”

Tim Cook

In an interview with ABC News that aired Wednesday, after Trump toured an Apple factory in Austin, Texas, Cook said he likes to cut out the middleman.

“I don’t believe in lobbyists,” he said. “I believe in direct conversation. I strongly believe in engagement. I hate polarization. I despise it.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean Apple doesn’t lobby; just last week, the company reportedly hired a major Trump donor to lobby on its behalf that it should be exempt from new tariffs. Apple reportedly spent $60 million on lobbying from 2005 to 2018, including $6.6 million last year.

Cook has met with Trump fairly regularly over the last few years, often talking about trade and jobs.

That effort — by both lobbyists and Cook — may be paying off: Trump said Wednesday that he’s “looking” at exempting Apple from a new wave of tariffs on Chinese goods set to take effect in December. Cook has said in the past that such tariffs would hurt Apple’s bottom line and help its biggest competitors.

“I’m hoping that the U.S. and China come to an agreement, and so I don’t even want to go down that road right now,” Cook told ABC News. “I’m so convinced that [a trade deal] in the best interest of the U.S. and best interest of China, and so if you have two parties where there’s a common best interest there has got to be some kind of path forward here. And I think that will happen.”

While Trump has called for Apple’s iPhones to be made in America, Cook said that’s not realistic. “The way I think about it is, the iPhone is made everywhere,” he said, noting that while the devices are assembled in China, its glass and many silicone components are made in the U.S.

“The iPhone is the product of a global supply chain,” Cook said, adding that iPhone assembly in the U.S. is not “on the horizon.”

Apple shares AAPL, -1.16%   are up 67% year to date, compared to a 19% gain by the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.40%  , of which it’s a component.

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