Donald Trump was supposed to be the president who saved U.S. manufacturing jobs, not sent them packing. As president-elect, he helped broker a deal for Carrier to retain some jobs in Indiana. And not long after that he invited Harley-Davidson to show off its American-made motorcycles at the White House.
But now the iconic, Wisconsin-based brand, which has considerable cachet with the America First crowd, says it has to make its European-bound bikes abroad to avoid retaliatory tariffs imposed after the president slapped a 25% tariff on imported steel and a 10% tariff on imported aluminum. Trump shot back with hostile tweets, threats of company-specific taxes on Harley and warnings of ruination.
Welcome to the depressing reality of Trump’s immature approach to trade and tariffs. Among some of the most glaring problems:
OPPOSING VIEW: President has the big picture right on trade
►Retaliation. Harley is hardly the only exporter feeling the pain of retaliatory tariffs passed by other countries. Companies that export manufactured goods, agricultural products, alcoholic beverages and more are looking at costly tariffs that could force them to move jobs abroad or shut down altogether.
►Harm to steel buyers. American companies employ a lot more people in the consumption of steel — to make cars, car parts, construction materials, etc. — than in the production of steel. Those industries are now at a competitive disadvantage because their costs have shot up.
►A hit to the economy. Just months after Congress passed a $1.5 trillion tax cut bill to stimulate the U.S. economy, it is suddenly showing signs of slowdown. Anxiety over tariffs — which make goods more expensive for American consumers — is a widely cited cause. Yields on Treasury bonds, a reliable signal of oncoming recession, are edging perilously close to a tipping point.
►A mockery of the law. Trump has based his actions on a law that gives presidents wide latitude to impose tariffs for national security reasons. Whatever disputes the United States might have with allies such as Canada, Mexico and Europe, none of these nations poses a national security threat.
Trump’s cynical and counterproductive tariffs risk undermining the alliances and trade policies that have produced an unprecedented era of peace and prosperity in the decades since World War II.
Not only do the tariffs needlessly wage a pointless trade war with friends (while Trump tries to make nice with the likes of Russia and North Korea), they invite all manner of unintended consequences.
House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and other Republicans have long seen trade as a fundamental part of free-enterprise strength. They’ve long warned against government trying to pick winners and losers. It’s time for them to stage an intervention.
The strong-arm tactics against Harley-Davidson are only the latest example of this president acting in ways that are harmful to America and its workers.
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