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Trump reportedly told Tim Cook iPhones would be spared tariffs

Cell phones weren't on the list of Chinese goods facing 25 percent US tariffs.

President Donald Trump with Apple CEO Tim Cook during an American Technology Council roundtable at the White House in 2017.
Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

President Donald Trump assured Apple CEO Tim Cook that the US government wouldn't levy tariffs on iPhones, which are assembled in China, the New York Times reported Monday.

Cook visited the White House last month to warn Trump that his trade policies with China could have an adverse affect on new corporate-tax rules and that tariffs were effectively a tax on consumers, sources told the newspaper.

The Office of the US Trade Representative on Friday said that $50 billion worth of Chinese goods with "industrially significant technologies" will be subject to 25 percent tariffs. More than 1,100 types of products will be affected, with the US government specifically excluding "goods commonly purchased by American consumers such as cellular telephones or televisions."

The tariffs underscore the tension between China and the US over trade negotiations, a back-and-forth that roped in Chinese smartphone maker ZTE. The tariffs are part of the US' response to China's policies that require foreign companies to hand over trade secrets involving technology, intellectual property and innovation, the US government said.

On Tuesday, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro told reporters, as related by CNBC, that "he had no knowledge or intel on whether in fact the president had told Tim Cook that iPhones would be exempted."

Apple and the White House didn't respond to requests for comment on Monday. They didn't immediately respond to further requests on Tuesday. 

CNET's Shara Tibken contributed to this report. 

First published June 18 at 7:24 p.m. PT.
Update at 12:04 p.m. PT on June 19: Adds comment from Peter Navarro. 

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