US will spare Apple Watch and AirPods from Chinese tariffs

The Trump administration spared a category of high-tech products that includes the Apple Watch and AirPods headphone from the next round of tariffs it has imposed on Chinese goods, according to the office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

President Donald Trump announced the tariffs in a statement on Monday, as the government released the final list of about $200 billion of Chinese products that will be hit with a new 10 percent tariff.

A product code that covers Apple Inc.’s Watch and AirPods — as well as similar smart watches, fitness trackers and other goods made by competitors including Fitbit Inc. — was not on the list. A separate code that covers the Mac mini was also not on the list of new tariffs.

Apple and Fitbit didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The first product code covers wireless devices, and it was included on a preliminary list the administration released in July. Other Apple products under the code include the HomePod speaker, BeatsWL headphones, and AirPort and Time Capsule internet routers. The value of such imports from China is about $12 billion, according to one of the people.

Apple sold 4.7 million smart watches last year, and Fitbit sold 2.7 million, according to research company International Data Corp.

Apple shares pared losses on the news, but still closed down 2.7 percent for the day at $217.88.

Fitbit shares rose as much as 4 percent to $5.54 from a low for the day and closed at $5.45.

Watches, Trackers

“Connected devices including fitness trackers and smart watches remain one of the top technology gifts to give and receive during the holidays,” Izzy Santa, a spokeswoman for the Consumer Technology Association, said in an email. She said her organization estimated last year that 67 million American adults planned to buy the devices.

Earlier this month, Apple said a “wide range” of its products would be hit by the proposed tariffs. The company didn’t identify the iPhone as a product that would be subject to duties in a Sept. 5 letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

Apple asked Lighthizer to reconsider imposing the tariffs and instead take other measures that would support the U.S. economy and American consumers.

Higher Costs

“Tariffs increase the cost of our U.S. operations, divert our resources, and disadvantage Apple compared to foreign competitors,” according to Apple’s letter. “More broadly, tariffs will lead to higher U.S. consumer prices, lower overall U.S. economic growth, and other unintended economic consequences.”

Plantronics Inc., a headset manufacturer based in Santa Cruz, California, asked Lighthizer to remove the same wireless products code from the tariffs list in an August letter.

Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook — who dined with Trump and his wife, Melania, at Trump’s Bedminster, New Jersey golf resort in August — has said he hopes “calm heads prevail” in the trade conflict between the U.S. and China. The company’s sprawling production chain is centered in China. Earlier this year, a Chinese Communist Party newspaper named Apple among the American companies that would be “most damaged” if a trade war erupted.

‘Smart Guy’

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, speaking at the Economic Club of New York on Monday, said the administration frequently consults with Cook and takes his views seriously.

“We’ve spoken to Mr. Tim Cook many times. He’s a really smart guy. He’s given us some good advice,” Kudlow said.

American industry has come out strongly against Trump’s tariffs, saying cost increases could raise prices for consumers.

The administration has revised the list of Chinese goods that will be hit by tariffs following a feedback period and more than a week of public hearings last month. Like Apple, most U.S. businesses that submitted comments were opposed to the tariffs being enacted.

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US will spare Apple Watch and AirPods from Chinese tariffs