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Apple moving production of U.S.-built Mac Pro computer to China

Where China tariffs will hurt consumers
  • Apple is moving production of its new Mac Pro computer to China, according to The Wall Street Journal.
  • The decision marks the departure of the tech giant's only major product manufactured in the U.S. 
  • Shifting production to a Shanghai-area factory would help reduce shipping costs with Apple's other suppliers in China, the report noted.

Apple is moving production of its new Mac Pro computer to China, marking the departure of the technology company's only major U.S.-built product, according to The Wall Street Journal. 

Apple didn't refute the report in a comment to CBS MoneyWatch. The Cupertino, California-based company is working with contractor Quanta Computer to assemble the desktop computer in a factory near Shanghai, which would help cut shipping costs with Apple's other suppliers in China, the Journal said on Friday. 

The Mac Pro model had been manufactured by contractor Flex in Austin, Texas, since 2013 as part of a $100 million commitment that CEO Tim Cook trumpeted in a national television interview. An Apple spokesperson said the new Mac Pro is designed and engineered in California and includes parts from the United States, as with other Apple products. 

"Final assembly is only one part of the manufacturing process," an Apple spokesman added.

The spokesman declined to comment beyond the statement.

Worker shortage

Flex's Austin factory encountered problems finding enough skilled labor willing to work for minimum wage, according to the Journal. Then, as Mac Pro sales faltered, Flex began laying off workers in Austin, and by last year had a skeleton crew left in Austin, according to a former Flex vice president quoted by the Journal.

Neither Flex nor Quanta Computer immediately responded to requests for comment.

Unlike iPhones, iPads and MacBooks, Apple's Mac Pro is not one of the tech giant's top-selling products, though at a $6,000 starting price, it is one of its most expensive. However, Apple has long attracted criticism for relying on China to manufacture its products. With the Trump administration's trade war with China, Apple is among the U.S. businesses facing higher costs because of new and proposed U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports.

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The tech giant just last week warned trade officials the latest round of tariffs on China would hurt its competitiveness. It also reportedly has been studying moving nearly one-third of its production out of China, though any decision to do so would likely be a long process, as it can take years for a global company like Apple to shift its manufacturing.

"We urge the U.S. government not to impose tariffs on these products," Apple wrote.

The development comes just as Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to meet Saturday for the G20 Summit in Japan. 

Separately, Apple's longtime design chief Jony Ive also announced his departure from the company Thursday. The man behind the iconic designs of the iPhone, iMac and iPad, Ive is departing after more than two decades at Apple to start his own design firm, the company said Thursday.

But he's not completely severing ties with the company he has worked at for nearly 30 years. Apple said it will be one of Ive's clients at his new firm. The Cupertino, California, company did not give an exact date for his departure.

Ive has been a fixture on Apple's design team since the early 1990s and is known for shaping Apple's signature rounded, stylish designs. He is often pointed to as the visionary behind what set Apple apart from its competitors — technology that didn't just look like boxes of wires, but that was fashionable and trendy.

Ive joined the company in 1992 as a young senior designer. Apple's co-founder and longtime leader Steve Jobs was in the midst of his 12-year exile at the time, and upon his return he named Ive senior vice president of industrial design.

The pair were known to work closely together in the decades before Jobs' death in 2011 — once, Jobs referred to Ive as his "spiritual partner.

--With reporting by The Associated Press.