The logic that many on the right and even some on the left understand about tariffs is the increase cost to overseas producers inevitably falls back on the American consumer. This is the primary argument made by many federalist-minded Libertarians and Republicans who oppose President Trump’s continued embrace of the practice. As we’re now seeing, there’s a potentially bigger problem with these tariffs.
Instead of bringing jobs back to America, they can actually drive jobs overseas. Case-in-point: good ol’ American Harley Davidson.
The motorcycle company that for many embodies the American rebellious spirit is at a crossroads. The European Union has raised its tariffs on American-made motorcycles from 6% to 31% in response to President Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum.
The move is likely to bring retaliatory action from European Union trade regulators, who have warned they will target US products as motorcycles, jeans and bourbon if additional US tariffs are imposed.
Signs of increasing friction between the US and Europe over trade came early on Wednesday when Wilbur Ross, the US commerce secretary, drew a sharp line with the EU over Chinese trade negotiations, telling counterparts at a trade development panel in Paris that Europe is using tariffs as an “excuse” to refuse trade negotiations.
Predictably, Harley Davidson is in a precarious situation. They must decide whether to continue exporting to Europe and pay the tariff, which averages around $2,200 per finished motorcycle, or move a portion of their operations to Europe to avoid the tariff. While they’re unwilling to admit it at this point, the latter will almost certainly force the company to cut it’s American workforce and even shut down some of their domestic facilities.
This isn’t the type of result we were promised when the President was selling us on tariffs, but it was easy to foresee.
Free trade works when it’s done right
The President was correct when he bashed NAFTA and TPP. However, his reasoning for doing so was wrong. Free trade empowers the real job creators in US companies to put Americans to work. It also allows for many to move jobs offshore, but the benefits of a freedom in trade greatly outweigh the detriments. As some jobs move offshore, more jobs are subsequently created in America.
NAFTA and TPP were never really free trade agreements. NAFTA was trade redistribution that ended up being detrimental to the whole continent and TPP was a handover of power to multinational companies without the benefit of proper oversight. To use them as the reason for imposing harsh tariffs and abandoning free trade is a farce. As a self-proclaimed master negotiator,Trump should have made better deals and embraced free trade. Let Americans go head-to-head with companies in other nations. Put their cheap workforce against our innovations and financial prowess. That type of free trade is good for them and better for us.
Harley Davidson won’t be the last company forced to make hard decisions because of the tariffs. Our best case scenario is that damage can be mitigated and some jobs truly do come back. Unfortunately, that may be wishful thinking.
Harley-Davidson offers no further detail on overseas production shift as European tariffs take hold | PennLive.com
“We never contemplated moving our European volume out of the United States,” Olin said Tuesday.
“Consequently we’re analyzing the capacity options that we have… and we are working on the overall plans, and when we have them we’ll provide more information.”