Harley-Davidson says it's shifting work overseas as a result of the trade fight going on between the US and Europe, and President Trump isn't taking the news lightly. In several tweets through Tuesday morning, the president criticized—and warned—the company. "A Harley-Davidson should never be built in another country-never!" Trump wrote. "Their employees and customers are already very angry at them. If they move, watch, it will be the beginning of the end - they surrendered, they quit!" Trump also accused Harley of using the tariffs being imposed by the EU "as an excuse" to justify the decision to ramp up production outside the US. "Harley must know that they won't be able to sell back into U.S. without paying a big tax!" he added. Related coverage and background:
- Harley's rationale: Last week, European officials announced tariffs on various US imports, including Harley bikes, in response to Trump's decision to impose tariffs on European imports. Harley says the EU tariffs would add $2,200 to the cost of a bike sold in Europe, too big of a hit in a growing market.
- Where? Harley didn't specify where it would increase overseas production, but it already has plants in Brazil, India, and Australia, notes the Wall Street Journal. The company also previously announced that it planned to open a factory in Thailand and that it would close a plant in Kansas City, though company officials say there's no connection between the Thailand and KC decisions, reports the AP.
- Thailand: Trump is still sticking to that point, however. "Early this year Harley-Davidson said they would move much of their plant operations in Kansas City to Thailand," he wrote. "That was long before Tariffs were announced." But Snopes digs in, concluding that it's off base to say Harley is moving production from KC to Thailand.
- Union angry: Monday's announcement is "the latest slap in the face to the loyal, highly-skilled workforce that made Harley an iconic American brand," says the international president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, per NPR. The statement accused Harley of using the EU tariffs as a convenient dodge. "Will Harley use any excuse to ship jobs overseas?"
- Hint of resolution? The Washington Post finds it interesting that in a tweet about Harley on Monday, Trump wrote that the company ultimately "will not pay tariffs selling into the E.U." The line suggests that Trump "expects to negotiate a resolution of his complaints about E.U. trade practices," write David J. Lynch and Heather Long.
- Risky game: The economy is growing and unemployment is low, but instead of running a midterm campaign trumpeting those things, Trump is engaging in "a high-risk trade and immigration strategy that has many Republicans, business leaders, and even Trump’s former advisers deeply worried about both the politics and the economics of the president's strategy," writes Ben White at Politico. The Harley controversy is just one example of the potential fallout, and Wall Street analysts are worried that a full-blown trade war could trigger a recession.
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