Using tariffs to shift work back to the United States, however, would be penny wise and pound foolish.
If Apple assembles its iPhones in China or an automaker uses workers in Mexico to produce parts or finished cars, they do so for a very good reason: It's the most cost-effective option. Using tariffs and other measures to drive production to the United States does little more than artificially raise expenses. It's the equivalent of the government requiring holes to be dug with spoons instead of excavators.
Let's imagine what would happen if, due to rising tariffs, Apple decided to end the production of iPhones in China and move production in the United States. True enough, jobs would be created, but at substantial cost. Before a single iPhone could be made, billions would have to be devoted to building new factories. Further billions would have to be spent attracting workers in a low-unemployment economy with much higher wages than those found in China. Time would be needed to train these workers as well as develop the associated ecosystem of suppliers.
So how would these expenses be paid for? Likely in a variety of ways. One option might be to raise prices. Indeed, some analysts estimate the likely retail price of a U.S.-built iPhone to be at least double that of one made in China. But that means reduced sales and higher barriers for consumers to acquire one of the great conveniences of modern life. Fewer purchases of iPhones would also filter through the rest of the economy, harming other firms such as those that design apps or others who use them to deliver services.
Another option would be for Apple to reduce its expenditures on areas such as research and development or marketing. In addition to placing the company at a competitive disadvantage and reducing the quality of its offerings — another harm to consumers — such a move would likely translate into fewer high-paying jobs at Apple's U.S. headquarters. Indeed, for all of the talk about iPhone assembly jobs overseas, often forgotten is that the company has more than 35,000 employees in California alone.