GOP senator: Harley-Davidson is right to move some production overseas

GOP senator: Harley-Davidson is right to move some production overseas
© Greg Nash

Wisconsin Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonJuan Williams: Hypocrisy runs riot in GOP Graham: Trump will 'be helpful' to all Senate GOP incumbents Partisan headwinds threaten Capitol riot commission MORE (R) said Sunday that motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson was right to move parts of its production overseas.

Johnson told host John Catsimatidis on New York's AM 970 that his state has been hit particularly hard by reciprocal tariffs from other countries angered by President TrumpDonald TrumpSouth Carolina Senate adds firing squad as alternative execution method Ex-Trump aide Pierson won't run for Dallas-area House seat House Oversight panel reissues subpoena for Trump's accounting firm MORE's trade actions.

"Because of the beginning of the trade war...our state has been particularly targeted," Johnson said. "Harley-Davidson has been targeted, our cranberry industry, our ginseng industry, but people don't realize that Wisconsin is a huge manufacturing state."


Harley-Davidson, based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, announced late last month that it would move part of its motorcycle production overseas citing rising costs from European Union tariffs on its products.

In a filing, the company cited the European Union's decision to implement tariffs on motorcycles imported from the U.S. for its decision. The EU tariffs came in response to the Trump administration's move to implement hefty steel and aluminum tariffs on the EU and other countries.

"We're a big steel-using state. Steel tariffs are hitting us pretty bad, pretty hard," he added. "That raises the costs of American-manufactured products, of Wisconsin-manufactured products."

Johnson said Harley-Davidson's owners weighed the costs of steel and aluminum tariffs, which the senators said had led to "30 to 40 percent" price increases on steel, against transportation costs incurred by manufacturing overseas.

"What happened with Harley basically is the trade war. They were paying 6 percent tariffs [to get] into Europe, now it's 31 percent," Johnson said. "If they manufacture in another country they can enjoy the lower steel prices and remain competitive."

"So they really don't have a choice," he added.

Harley-Davidson's decision angered President Trump, who vacillated in the days following the announcement between condemnation and pleas for the company to keep its production domestic.

The president warned Harley-Davidson not to get "cute" with his administration over manufacturing overseas at a Wisconsin rally last month, urging the company to rethink its decision.

“We want to tell, by the way, Harley-Davidson, please build those beautiful motorcycles in the USA, please, OK? Don’t get cute with us. Don’t get cute,” Trump said in June.

“They don’t realize the taxes are coming way down. Spent a lot of time with them,” he continued. “Build them in the USA. Your customers won’t be happy if you don’t.”