Apple Inc. AAPL -0.51% is manufacturing its new Mac Pro computer in China, according to people familiar with its plans, shifting abroad production of what had been its only major device assembled in the U.S. as trade tensions escalate between the Trump administration and Beijing.
The tech giant has tapped contractor Quanta Computer Inc. to manufacture the $6,000 desktop computer and is ramping up production at a factory near Shanghai, the people said. Quanta’s facility is close to other Apple suppliers across Asia, making it possible for Apple to achieve lower shipping costs than if it shipped components to the U.S.
While the Mac Pro isn’t one of Apple’s bigger products, the decision on where to make it carries outsize significance. Apple’s reliance on factories in China to manufacture its products has been an issue for the company, especially under President Trump, who has pressured Apple and other companies to make more in the U.S.
With the previous Mac Pro model, released in 2013, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook trumpeted plans to build it in the U.S. Apple invested $100 million in tooling and other equipment for a plant in Austin, Texas, run by contract manufacturer Flex Ltd. Each computer was stamped with “Assembled in the USA.”
.. “Final assembly is only one part of the manufacturing process,” the spokesman said, adding that the company’s investments support two million American jobs. The Mac Pro is Apple’s most powerful computer, used primarily by a small group of professionals working in industries such as film and videogames.
President Trump has pressured Apple to make some iPhones, Macs or iPads in the U.S. since the 2016 presidential campaign. He told The Wall Street Journal in 2017 that Mr. Cook promised to build “three big plants, beautiful plants” in the U.S., a claim Apple declined to comment on at the time. Last year, as his administration imposed tariffs on imports from China, Mr. Trump said the only way to ensure prices for Apple goods don’t increase would be to make products in the U.S.
Apple in the past two years has announced a second campus in Austin, Texas, to handle customer support and operations, and announced more than $500 million in new contractswith U.S. component suppliers that manufacture at home. But Apple hasn’t disclosed any plans to build new manufacturing facilities in the U.S.
Making the new model in China isn’t likely to affect many workers in Texas because demand for the old Mac Pro had fizzled years ago. The Flex workforce had shifted to refurbishing already-made computers, former Flex employees said. The Flex plant continues to make products for HP Inc. and other companies, they said.
Early in his presidency, Donald Trump said the Foxconn plant in Wisconsin would be “the eighth wonder of the world” because it would spectacularly revitalize American manufacturing. After billions of dollars in tax incentives, the Taiwanese tech company now seems to be reneging on some of what it promised. Sruthi Pinnamaneni is a reporter at the Reply All podcast who made an episode about the deal called ‘Negative Mount Pleasant’. She talks about how the residents of the Wisconsin village of Mount Pleasant see the deal, and what they’ve been through in the spotlight.