While Trump has repeatedly claimed that the USA can win trade wars, victims are starting to pile up at home and overseas.
US President Donald Trump said Monday he was "surprised" by Harley-Davidson's decision to shift some manufacturing of its iconic motorcycles overseas to avoid European tariffs, amid a tit-for-tat trade spat between Washington and Brussels. Steel would incur a 25-percent tariff, while aluminum imports would see a 10-percent tariff. Earlier this year, Harley-Davidson announced it would consolidate its Kansas City, Missouri facility into its existing York, Pennsylvania one.
But the company said it expected increasing production in its global plants would require additional investment and could take as long as 18 months.
The EU's tariffs are only the latest blowback Harley has faced from Trump's trade policies. While numerous company's efforts to grow its brand focus on Asia, the European market remained the second largest after the USA with about 40,000 in retail sales a year ago. Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, where Harley-Davidson is headquartered, says the goal should be no tariffs for anyone.
Harley-Davidson also plans to shift building of EU-bound motorcycles outside of the U.S. From the company's statements, it plans to continue to manufacture parts for motorcycles in the US and ship them to Thailand for assembly, as it does for facilities in Brazil and India.
Harley-Davidson felt that if it passed on the cost increase to dealers and customers it would have an immediate negative impact on its business in the European Union, including threatening the sustainability of its dealers' businesses.
Harley-Davidson determined that the tariffs would therefore eat up $30 million to $45 million of the current year's profit.
Analysts have noted the irony of Harley-Davidson's plight given that its executives were among the first to visit the White House in February 2017 shortly after Trump took office.
The Harley move represented a slap in the face for Trump. Rather than pass on those costs to consumers in higher prices, Harley said it would absorb them for now while it begins planning to move production offshore.
"Unfortunately, this confirms my concerns and is a far too predictable outcome of policies that give companies like Harley-Davidson incentives to make their products elsewhere", Sen.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders also told reporters at a briefing on Monday that the European Union was "attempting to punish United States workers with unfair and discriminatory trade policies". These tariffs, which became effective June 22, 2018, were imposed in response to the tariffs the US imposed on steel and aluminum exported from the European Union to the U.S. Sales of the company's bikes have already been stung in recent years, with the initial bite of the recession followed by a general downturn in interest from Millennial riders.
For as long as internet shopping has been around, the issue of sales tax has been a hot-button issue. "And it's about time". The law calls for a one-tenth percent rate cut per $20 million in new state revenue from purchases through online retailers.
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