Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Apple Finds Its Way Into The Presidential Debate

During tonight's presidential debate between President Barrack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney the question was raised about how each planed to return manufacturing jobs to American in particular when it related the manufacturing of such American-designed devices as the the "iPhone, Mac, and iPad" which despite being designed by Apple are currently assembled in China

Romney, who replied first, stuck to his tough line approach on China, suggesting that his presidency would be more aggressive about currency manipulation by the Chinese government that he said helped their exports to the detriment of the United States. Romney also mentioned the sale of counterfeit Apple products in China, talked about the threat of hacking from China, and may have been referencing Apple's patent battles with Chinese companies when he said China had been "stealing our intellectual property; our designs, our patents, our technology." Romney finished his response with a pledge to make the U.S. more attractive to entrepreneurs.

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Obama addressed the question far more directly, saying bluntly that "there are some jobs that are not going to come back," specifically low-wage, low-skill jobs like those seen in the factory work in China. The president stressed the need to invest in advanced manufacturing and "to make sure that we've got the best science and research in the world" to equip American workers, not for jobs on iPhone assembly lines, but for higher paying work.

The debate over outsourcing jobs and China and has been a hot topic one. This however is the first time we've heard direct reference to a major player like Apple. Despite being the world's largest company by market cap, and one of America's most successful companies, Apple employes relatively few workers (other than retail jobs) in America and almost none in manufacturing. Instead opting to outsource almost all of those jobs to Asia.

Over the course of the last few years Apple has come under fire for many of its practices related to American workers as well as its tax practices. Earlier this year Apple had to answer to legal tax dodging questions a case in which the company used legal loopholes to dodge billions of dollars in taxes in several countries including United States.

In more recent cases related to the outsourcing of work Apple and their manufacturing partner Foxconn found themselves in the sport light and under public scrutiny when a series of well-publicised suicides in 2010 and reports of labor abuses, such as excessive overtime, threw a spotlight on conditions inside the plants. Even more recently Foxconn acknowledged hiring teenagers as young as 14 in a Chinese factory, in breach of national law. Surprising none of these issue made their way into either candidates responses.

As a side note, Lenovo, which just happens to be China's largest PC maker, said last week that it will assemble tablets, laptops, and desktops in an existing facility outside of Greensboro [in North Carolina]. So, obviously creating high-tech-device product-assembly jobs in the U.S. is not nearly as impossible are as hard as president Obama would have us believe.

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