A cabinet minister of the government of India has given the clearest signal yet that the republic is ready to help Apple expand its iPhone manufacturing base in the country and consider its requests for concessions.
Commerce and industry minister Suresh Prabhu was quoted on Sunday by the India Economic Times as saying the state was "very happy" to help Apple in its aims, provided the company makes a formal proposal.
"Let us get a good proposal from them...We will be very happy to receive Apple, one of the top brands in the world. We are willing to find out if there is any difficulty they may face. We will be more than happy to resolve that difficulty. So we will await a formal proposal," Prabhu told PTI in an interview.
Prabhu also reportedly said he was open to calling all state chief ministers who are willing to give Apple the best deal.
The comments come at an important time for Apple as it seeks to expand its manufacturing base in the country. The company has asked state officials for a range of tax and policy changes to help build out its iPhone assembly infrastructure in India, including duty exemptions on components, capital equipment, and consumables for all iPhone assembly and services/repairs for a period of 15 years.
Apple also wants the Indian government to relax rules that require 30 percent of products sold by foreign companies to be manufactured or produced within the country.
iPhone SE handsets have been assembled in India since May by Apple's Taiwanese supplier Wistron, which has reportedly been scouting for additional land in Bangalore to expand its existing facilities. Additionally, a report last week claimed the tentatively named iPhone SE 2 will be assembled exclusively by Wistron at its factories in India.
India recently overtook the U.S. to become the world's second largest smartphone market after China, according to market research conducted by industry analyst Canalys. However, Apple has so far struggled to make a significant dent, mainly because the government levies tariffs on devices manufactured outside the country, but also due to Chinese rivals such as Oppo and Xiaomi offering consumers more affordable high-spec smartphones.
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