Trump Threatens Harley-Davidson With Taxes After Company Announces Plans to Move Production Abroad

Europe is second to only the United States among Harley-Davidson’s most important markets. President Trump has often lauded the company as an American icon and job creator.
Carlos Barria/Reuters

President Trump lashed out at one of his favorite American manufacturers on Tuesday, criticizing Harley-Davidson over its plans to move some of its motorcycle production abroad and threatening it with steep punitive taxes.

In a series of tweets on Tuesday, the president accused the Wisconsin-based company of surrendering in Mr. Trump’s trade war with Europe and said the firm would lose its “aura” if it produced bikes overseas.

“If they move, watch, it will be the beginning of the end — they surrendered, they quit!” he wrote. “The Aura will be gone and they will be taxed like never before!”

The attack came a day after Harley-Davidson announced that it would move some of its production abroad in response to stiff retaliatory tariffs that the European Union imposed in response to Mr. Trump’s trade measures. Rather than raise prices to cover the new 31 percent tariff on bikes it exports to the European Union, Harley said it would shift some of its production to overseas facilities to avoid the tariffs.

Europe targeted Harley-Davidson, an iconic American brand, after Mr. Trump imposed tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum.

On Tuesday, Mr. Trump accused Harley of using the trade dispute as an excuse to send offshore more jobs following the recent construction of a plant in Thailand. The suggestion echoed the sentiment expressed by one of the unions that represents Harley workers.

Harley’s Thai plant was developed to mitigate tariffs that are already in place in Asia. But the decision to move more production abroad came in direct response to new European tariffs that were imposed to punish American products from politically important states, like Wisconsin. Harley has not said where it will build the bikes for the European market or how many lost jobs in the United States might occur as a result.

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SOURCE: NY Times, Alan Rappeport