As Apple falls on news of weak iPhone sales in China, there is still one more shoe that could drop in the country that would push consumers there even further away: The possible extradition from Canada of Meng Wanzhou, CFO of the country's largest consumer hardware manufacturer, Huawei.
The Justice Department has not yet filed detailed paperwork to request Meng, who is now out on bail in Vancouver, be extradited to the U.S. to stand trial on allegations of fraud over Iran sanctions. The DOJ has until the end of January to file the paperwork under Canada's extradition agreement with the U.S.
Several media outlets have surfaced anecdotal reports of consumers in China already rejecting Apple products because of the dispute. But in an exclusive interview with CNBC on Wednesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook downplayed concerns that negative sentiments about American products might be playing a role in the weaker-than-expected sales in China.
"There are reports, sort of sporadic reports, about somebody talking about not buying our products because we're American, maybe a little bit on social media, maybe a guy standing in front of a store or something," Cook said. "My personal sense is that this is small. Keep in mind that China's not monolithic. Just like America's not monolithic. You have people with different views and different ideas. And so do I think anybody elected not to buy because of that? I'm sure some people did. But my sense is the much larger issue is the slowing of the economy and then this — the trade tension that's further pressured."
But Apple could be sustaining longer-term reputation and brand damage among Chinese consumers who may increasingly be associating its products with the big-picture legal actions undertaken by the U.S. government.