Back in 2012, it was a Big Deal when Apple decided to assemble the Mac Pro in Austin, Texas. Fast forward seven years, and now it seems Apple will manufacture the new Mac Pro will be built in China, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Citing sources close to the matter, the Journal reports Apple has partnered with Quanta Computer Inc, a Taiwanese contractor, to build the computer at a factory near Shanghai. One reason is that it’ll be much cheaper for the Cupertino giant to source components, as many of its suppliers are located near Shanghai.
While it’s true that few are likely to buy the $6,000 Mac Pro, the decision does have some significance as far as Apple’s history and the current trade war with China goes. Back in 2012, Apple CEO Tim Cook touted plans to partially manufacture and assemble the desktop computer in the U.S. in a Bloomberg interview, citing it as evidence Apple was willing to invest $100 million in American manufacturing.
That venture didn’t go so well. Turns out, manufacturing in America came with some hiccups. First, the U.S. machine shop Apple contracted to build a custom screw was only able to deliver a limited capacity of 1,000 screws per day. Staffing was also an issue. The Texas factory only had one person in charge of securing materials, whereas, in China, there are plenty of skilled workers to fill that need as there’s a higher demand for similar positions. Also, the Journal reports Apple was unprepared for the fact that 80 percent of workers at the Austin plant were contract workers being paid minimum wage for eight-hour workdays. That meant they’d go home when their time was up, leaving production lines stalled until the next shift. Not an issue in China, where some manufacturers have zero reservations about continually working their staff under exhaustive conditions.
Apple did not respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment.
Apple’s reported decision to move Mac Pro production back to China comes at a moment when trade tensions when between the country and the United States are close to boiling over. Apple is reportedly looking to shift 15 to 30 percent of its production capacity outside to southeast Asia in light of the Trump administration’s current trade crusade against China and potential tariffs.
In the past, President Trump has needled Apple to bring more manufacturing jobs to the U.S., at one point he erroneously boasted that he’d gotten Cook to promise to build “three big plants, beautiful plants” on American soil. The news isn’t likely to make Trump happy, but ya never know what stories will make it onto his TV, so it’s possible he’ll never find out.
That said, workers at the Texas factory are expected to continue with their employment. Apple hired Flex Ltd, a contractor, to assemble the Mac Pros. Demand has long since tapered off for the older Mac Pro models, and the Journal reports workers in Texas have moved onto refurbishing computers—on top of jobs for other companies, including HP.