Qualcomm CEO: Globalization is still 'good for America'

Amid nationalist movements across the globe, Qualcomm's overseas success is still good for America, CEO Steve Mollenkopf told CNBC on Monday.

"We are integral to a global supply chain that supports electronics," Mollenkopf told "Squawk on the Street." " It's actually quite good for America .... I also think that stability or success in American business — or overseas success of American business — is a great stabilizing force for the country as a whole, and we think we have a role to play there."

Mollenkopf spoke from international tech trade show Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where Qualcomm's new Snapdragon processors were front and center, powering new phones like the Sony's Xperia XZ Premium. The trade show comes as American lawmakers are debating a tax that would essentially subsidize exports and tax imports.

Steve Mollenkopf, CEO of Qualcomm
Justin Solomon | CNBC
Steve Mollenkopf, CEO of Qualcomm

"If you look at a company like Qualcomm, we're a big exporter," Mollenkopf said. "We essentially have tremendous revenue offshore and large employment onshore. I think it's very difficult to make big changes in that."

For instance, Mollenkopf said American companies have big opportunities to take advantage of a booming wireless industry in India and Southeast Asia, as mobile penetration rises there.

Meanwhile, Qualcomm is in the midst of a $1 billion legal battle with a giant customer — Apple. Apple has accused Qualcomm of charging Apple "at least five times more in payments than all the other cellular patent licensors" combined. On a recent conference call with investors, Apple CEO Tim Cook said "it's somewhat like buying a sofa, and you charge somebody a different price depending upon the price of the house that it goes into."

"We're not going to win the case or lose the case based on the strength of a metaphor," Mollenkopf said. "We're very integral in creating the industries that a lot of people come in and are successful in. We're actually very happy that that occurs."

Mollenkopf pointed to mega-start-ups like Snapchat and Uber, which are mobile-first companies that are expected to go public soon.

"The core technologies that we create, and that others create, enable new business models," Mollenkopf said. "In Uber's or Snap's case, you couldn't do that without connected devices in your pocket, the ability to have a high-quality camera connected to the cloud at all times, or the ability to have position location. We've been working on those technologies for 20 years."