Trump admits his tariffs could give Samsung an advantage over Apple

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Donald Trump and Tim Cook
Apple CEO Tim Cook and President Donald Trump appear to have a good working relationship.
Photo: White House

During a Friday-night dinner with Donald Trump, Apple CEO Tim Cook very nearly convinced the president that import taxes planned for iPhone and other products would benefit Samsung.

Apple will pay proposed tariffs on products imported from China, while Korea-based Samsung — Cupertino’s chief competitor — will not.

Trump talks tariffs

“I had a very good meeting with Tim Cook,” Trump told reporters this afternoon, including ABC News. “I have a lot of respect for Tim Cook, and Tim was talking to me about tariffs. And, one of the things, and he made a good case, is that Samsung is their No. 1 competitor, and Samsung is not paying tariffs because they’re based in South Korea.”

“And it’s tough for Apple to pay tariffs if they’re competing with a very good company that’s not,” Trump continued. “I thought he made a very compelling argument, so I’m thinking about it.”

On again, off again iPhone tariffs

Earlier this month, Trump announced a plan to put tariffs on billions of dollars more items imported from China at the beginning of September. This would include virtually all Apple products.

Later, the president decided to delay the import taxes on phones, laptops and some other goods, though Apple accessories like AirPods will still get hit next month. The current plan is for the delayed tariffs to go into effect Dec. 15.

Exactly what Trump means when he says “I’m thinking about it” in the wake of his dinner with Cook isn’t clear. Perhaps he’ll decide to cancel the threat to impose the tariffs that go into effect on Dec. 15, and/or the ones that start Sept. 1. Alternatively, he could leave them alone and instead impose import taxes on goods brought in from Korea to put Apple and Samsung on a more level playing field.

If nothing else, the president has seemingly stopped insisting that the Chinese are paying tariffs to have products imported into the United States, when these taxes are actually being billed to U.S. companies, including Apple.