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Apple moves to expand its US manufacturing at Mesa, Arizona site

Apple has submitted a proposal to expand its manufacturing capabilities at a site in Mesa, Arizona where it already produces certain components for its consumer products.

The notification of proposed production activity was submitted by Apple on December 27, and published in the Federal Register yesterday.

The notice shows Apple seeking to expand its production capabilities at the site in Mesa to be able to produce finished products and utilize foreign status materials/components — including a laundry list of core electronics components, such as printed circuit board assemblies, lithium polymer batteries and monitors.

“The current request would add finished products and foreign status materials/components to the scope of authority,” the notice states.

The first product Apple is intending to manufacture at the Mesa site appears to be data server cabinets — which are listed in the title of the notice.

At the time of writing Apple could not be reached for comment but we’ve reached out with questions and will update this story with any response.

Cupertino does already assemble the Mac Pro in the US but this election cycle the company has come under high profile political pressure from (the now) President-Elect Donald Trump to expand its on-shore manufacturing capabilities, with Trump calling for iPhones to be made in the US.

As well as pushing this suggestion on the campaign stump, Trump reportedly put it to Apple CEO Tim Cook during a phone call between the pair after he won the election — with Trump suggesting tax incentives could be used to persuade large corporations to set up manufacturing facilities in the US.

Apple’s current supply chain for devices such as the iPhone, iPad and Mac involves a web of assembly spread across multiple countries, mostly in Asia. So any moves to repatriate manufacturing, even greased by tax incentives, would undoubtedly take a long time to unpick and re-form such a complex supply chain system.

Not to mention requiring an army of cheap labour on tap at home to do the assembling, without which the cost of manufacturing the products would rise — likely pushing up their retail price-tag.

(Or, if enough humans couldn’t be found in the US labour force, a massive investment in assembly robots could be an alternative — such as we’re starting to see Apple outsourcer Foxconn make — which would presumably not be the kind of long term (human) jobs Trump was hoping to create…)

The Mesa Notice invites public comments from interested parties — with a closing date for receipt of February 21.

If Apple is granted production under the Foreign Trade-Zone procedure it could be exempt from customs duty payments on the listed foreign-status materials/components used in export production. While, for domestic sales of the finished server assembly cabinets, the notice states Apple would be able to choose the duty rate during customs entry procedures for the listed foreign-status materials/components.

“Customs duties also could possibly be deferred or reduced on foreign-status production equipment,” it adds.

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