When Harley-Davidson announced last week that it planned to manufacture some of its motorcycles overseas, President Donald Trump reacted as though the iconic American company had leveled a personal insult directly at him. He took to Twitter, of course, threatening to hit the 115-year-old Wisconsin-based company with steep taxes, and promising to fight Harley every step of the way going forward.
He was still at it on Sunday.
Speaking with Maria Bartiromo on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures,” he said:
“I devoted a lot of time to Harley-Davidson. I treated them good. I guarantee you everybody that ever bought a Harley-Davidson voted for Trump. I don’t know if you know that.”
Well, not everybody, of course.
Because Harley-Davidson is a global company, selling its products far and wide across the world. And some aren’t even made in America. For example, Harleys sold in India are made in India.
Why? Because of the steep tariffs that India imposes on imported motorcycles.
It’s because of a new round of retaliatory tariffs — the next step in Trump’s trade war — that Harley wants to move some production to Europe. Simply put, Trump created this problem, and is now acting as though someone else is to blame.
In our interconnected, globalized economy, companies don’t do everything in one place. One example: Japanese automakers Honda, Toyota, Nissan and Subaru, among others, make many vehicles in the United States. There are those Harleys made in India. And as far back as 1998, some Harley-Davidson motorcycles were assembled in Brazil.
Not that one would know this from the firestorm that was created just last week, after Harley’s announcement that it would simply be doing what makes good sense.
Trump has said that trade wars are good. And easily won.
If there are some who agree with those wrongheaded assessments — folks who simply don’t much understand trade, or basic economics — they’ll be disabused of such notions going forward. Because no one wins a trade war. Ever. Workers lose, as jobs are cut. Consumers lose, as prices go up and up. Across the globe, nations lose, as the trade war takes a toll on economic growth.
Though Trump, who’d been a lifelong Democrat, has talked, at least at times, as someone who has embraced the tenets of modern Republicanism, he repeatedly acts otherwise, especially when it comes to free trade.
True Harley devotees are often astonishingly loyal to their favorite motorcycle. They attend Harley rallies. They buy Harley gear. Some even get Harley tattoos.
But not all motorcycle aficionados lean toward the iconic American bike. In fact, its harshest detractors refer to the brand by using a clever pejorative, calling it Hardly-Ableson.
Though he doesn’t know it, Trump’s trade war is putting him in league with those folks.