Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Monday that Apple’s revenue warning isn’t tied to U.S.-China trade negotiations, in a rebuke of the iPhone giant’s public statements and a sign the Trump administration hopes to distance itself from the company’s shortcomings.
“I don’t think Apple’s earnings miss had anything to do with the present trade talks,” Ross said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “Think about it, there have been no tariffs put on Apple products. So that’s not it.”
Apple last week lowered its revenue guidance for the company’s fiscal first quarter, citing headwinds in China and lower-than-expected iPhone sales. CEO Tim Cook told CNBC that the company would troubleshoot lower sales where it could, but that macroeconomic trends in China — one of Apple’s largest markets — will have to change.
“If you look at our results, our shortfall is over 100 percent from iPhone and it’s primarily in greater China,” Cook told CNBC’s Josh Lipton after the announcement. “It’s clear that the economy began to slow there for the second half and what I believe to be the case is the trade tensions between the United States and China put additional pressure on their economy.”
Apple’s warning led some on Wall Street to question the effect of President Donald Trump’s trade policies with regard to China. Any significant financial impact for one of the country’s most valuable companies could signal more trouble ahead.
On Monday, Ross said the ratcheting up of tariffs on Chinese goods “certainly has hurt the Chinese economy.”
“You look at this morning’s paper: Rate of growth in GDP heading down; rate of growth in retail sales heading down; rate of growth in capital investment heading down,” he said.
Ross’ comments follow similar remarks by Trump on Friday, in which the president downplayed the financial impact on Apple and said he wasn’t concerned about the company’s sales because it assembles its iPhones in China.
“Apple was at a number that was incredible and they’re going to be fine. Apple is a great company,” Trump said.
Apple was not immediately available to comment Monday.
CNBC’s full interview with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross