"Speaking on behalf of Taiwan, I am urging Apple to move to Taiwan," Terry Gou, founder and CEO of Taiwanese electronics manufacturing giant Foxconn, said after announcing that he would be stepping down from his post effective July 1, AP has reported.
"I think this is very possible," Gou added, speaking to company shareholders about the prospects of the Taiwan move.
"Taiwan holds a very important position in this current US-China trade dispute, in this global economy reform. Taiwan is important for its technologies, geographical location, protection on intellectual property and application of new technologies," the businessman said.
Gou, 68, did not elaborate on what steps Apple might take to move its manufacturing capacity to Taiwan. Earlier this year, he announced that he planned in the primaries of the Kuomintang party ahead of the 2020 Taiwanese presidential elections. From the early to mid-20th century, the Kuomintang fought China's Communist Party in a decades' long civil war which ended when Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-shek fled to the island in 1949.
The Foxconn CEO did not bring up the presidential election at Friday's event.
Taipei's relations with Beijing have stagnated in recent weeks amid President Tsai Ing-wen's support for the anti-extradition law protesters in Hong Kong, and reports of negotiations on a multi-billion dollar arms deal with the US. Beijing considers the island to be an integral part of its territory, and maintains a complex relationship with Taipei aimed, for the moment, at restoring transport, communications and commerce links.
Apple Fears Getting Bit in Trade War
Earlier this month, in a bid to allay fears of a possible Chinese retaliation to Washington's blacklisting of Chinese electronics giant Huawei, Foxconn assured Foxconn investors that 25 percent of the company's manufacturing capacity was located "outside of China," and that the company could "help Apple respond to its needs in the US market."
In early June, Apple CEO Tim Cook said in an interview that his company had not been targeted by China "at all," adding that he didn't anticipate that this would happen. On Wednesday, however, Asian business news resource Nikkei reported that Apple was actively studying the costs of moving between 15 and 30 percent of its iPhone production out of mainland China amid the escalating US-China trade dispute.
Earlier this month, US-based rating agency Fitch listed Apple, Dell and HP as three prime candidates for a Chinese blacklisting if China responded to the Huawei ban with tit-for-tat measures.
Foxconn is the world's largest electronics manufacturer, and employs some 1.2 million workers in mainland China. In addition to Apple products, which account for about half of its revenues, the company builds electronics for a host of other major companies, including Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo.
The US and China were thrust into a tit-for-tat tariff conflict in mid-2018, when the Trump administration slapped a 25 percent tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods. Since then, the two economic powers have hit one another with several more rounds of back-and-forth tariffs, with Trump recently saying that the US may hit the remaining $300 billion worth of Chinese goods with tariffs if a deal can't be worked out. On Tuesday, announcing his bid to run for reelection in 2020, Trump said he would work to negotiate a favourable trade deal with Beijing or walk away completely.