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Apple to shift MacBook production to Vietnam in further step away from China

The plan has been reportedly been worked on for two years, with the tech giant already having a test production site in the country

Apple is reportedly looking to transfer some MacBook production from China to Vietnam as it aims to avoid ongoing US-China tensions and supply chain disruptions.

Foxconn, one of the tech giant’s suppliers, will start producing MacBooks in Vietnam from around May onwards, according to Nikkei Asia. Once the production of MacBooks begins, it will mean all of the tech giant’s main products will have a production site out of China.

iPhones are being made in India while MacBooks, Apple Watches, and iPads will be produced in Vietnam. The tech giant is reportedly securing options outside of China for part of the production of all of its products.

Securing an additional production site for the MacBook has taken longer than Apple’s other products due to the MacBook's complex supply chain.

The plan to move MacBook production has been in the pipeline for nearly two years, with the tech giant already establishing a test production site in Vietnam. Currently, the company produces 20-24 million MacBooks each year, which are made in Chengdu and Shanghai. 

Recent years have seen the trade tensions between the US and China escalate. In September 2022, this culminated in US officials banning Nvidia from exporting AI-based chips to China as the country may have used them for military use.

Similarly, in November 2021, the US Department of Commerce added 12 Chinese tech companies to a blacklist, aiming to stop the Chinese army from gaining access to important US technologies.

This may have caused Apple to be concerned, especially since in January 2019 it blamed the US-China trade war for its first drop in revenue in 12 years. It said that economic deceleration in China was a significant influencing factor in its decreased revenue figures, with sales of the iPhone suffering in the country. 

"We believe the economic environment in China has been further impacted by rising trade tensions with the United States," Cook said at the time. "As the climate of mounting uncertainty weighed on financial markets, the effects appeared to reach consumers as well, with traffic to our retail stores and our channel partners in China declining as the quarter progressed.”

Additionally, Apple has been impacted by disruptions in its Chinese supply chain in recent years. Most recently, workers launched protests at an iPhone plant belonging to Foxconn in November 2022, as reported by the Guardian, triggered by a delay in paying workers their bonuses.

In March 2022, Foxconn also resumed making Apple products at its manufacturing hub in Shenzhen after halting production for a week during a lockdown.

The company said it had resumed normal working order, with the factory continuing to produce the iPhone SE and MacBook Air. However, it added that it had to comply with the local government’s epidemic prevention policies, where factory workers had to limit outside interactions and live and work in a bubble.

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