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Trump Asked Harley-Davidson Not To Move Jobs Overseas After Starting A Trade War That Forced Harley To Move Jobs Overseas

Illustration for article titled Trump Asked Harley-Davidson Not To Move Jobs Overseas After Starting A Trade War That Forced Harley To Move Jobs Overseas
Photo: AP

A couple weeks ago, Harley-Davidson said that it was moving some production overseas thanks to President Trump’s trade war, which made our president mad and led to some angry tweets. After all that, Trump’s Secretary of the Treasury revealed yesterday, he went back to Harley and asked, a bit sadly, could you really not move those jobs overseas.

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This all came out in a hearing yesterday at the U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee, where Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin testified on a range of issues, eventually making news, intentionally or not, about Harley.

To recap, briefly: Trump enacted tariffs on steel and aluminum earlier this year, prompting the European Union to place tariffs on a broad range of American imports, including motorcycles. That, in turn, prompted Harley, already facing headwinds, to move some of its jobs overseas.

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Back to Mnuchin, though, whose full exchange on Thursday with Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters can be seen here:

Mnuchin opens his remarks by saying that, in meetings, “[Trump] always talked about tariffs on motorcycles and cutting tariffs on motorcycles,” which is curious, since it is Trump’s own tariffs that prompted the Europe’s motorcycle tariffs.

Mnuchin then said that his “sense” was that Harley had planned to move the jobs overseas prior to the tariffs being enacted, though he then conceded that he hadn’t spoken to anyone at Harley.

Waters then goes in for the kill, asking Mnuchin directly if tariffs had anything to do with Harley moving jobs overseas; Mnuchin replied, again, that he doesn’t really know since he hasn’t talked to them. Then there is this exchange:

Waters: “Have you spoken to the President?”

Mnuchin: “Yes, I have.”

Waters: “And what did he say?”

Mnuchin: “And, again, the President has been a huge advocate of Harley-Davidson, and is very disappointed on Harley-Davidson’s...”

Waters: “Did he ask them to stay?”

Mnuchin: “Yes, he did.”

Waters: “And they turned him down?”

Mnuchin: “No, he asked them afterwards and I don’t know the status.”

Waters: “Thank you, I yield back the balance of my time.”

Now, I’m not the Secretary of the Treasury, just a blogger, but I believe I know the status: The Harley jobs are going overseas, which isn’t a personal affront to Trump, however he wants to cast it, is just a smart business decision by a company doing anything it can to survive. Here’s how Harely put it in prepared remarks late last month:

“Increasing international production to alleviate the EU tariff burden is not the company’s preference, but represents the only sustainable option to make its motorcycles accessible to customers in the EU and maintain a viable business in Europe. Europe is a critical market for Harley-Davidson.”

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Survival in Trump’s America apparently means leaving, even for a company that is American as they come.

News Editor at Jalopnik. 2008 Honda Fit Sport.

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DISCUSSION

Will the tariffs kill Harley? No. But they are another strike at the legs of a wobbly stool and soon it is going to tumble.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Buell could have helped save Harley. If they have any sense at self preservation they need to beg Erik to come back. But they won’t, they will keep their bikes exorbitantly expensive, they will fail to market anything that does not fall into the “american outlaw biker” mold, they will attempt to survive by selling the “brand” in merchandise, and in 20 years I will be telling my kids about the american motorcycle company that survived 115 years just to die a slow death.

Also it might make getting parts for my Buell S2 even more difficult.....