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Trump denies blame for Harley moving some production overseas

President Donald Trump greets Harley Davidson executives at

President Donald Trump greets Harley Davidson executives at the White House on Feb. 2, 2017.   Credit: AFP / Getty Images / Nicholas Kamm

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump fired off a series of angry tweets at Harley Davidson on Tuesday, after the motorcycle manufacturer announced it would move some of its production overseas to avoid European tariffs that were imposed in retaliation to the Trump administration’s tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.

Trump accused the Wisconsin-based company on Twitter of using the trade war between the U.S. and European Union as an “excuse” to expand its overseas operations. But the company, in a statement to investors on Monday, said the move was necessary to remain competitive in one of its biggest sales markets. The tariffs imposed by Europe would increase the cost of each motorcycle by $2,200, the company said.

The president tweeted that “Early this year Harley-Davidson said they would move much of their plant operations in Kansas City to Thailand. That was long before Tariffs were announced. Hence, they were just using Tariffs/Trade War as an excuse.” But, the move to Thailand was actually announced in response to the Trump administration pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free-trade agreement with a bloc of Asian countries, in January 2017.

Harley Davidson CEO Matt Levatich told Bloomberg News in April: “We would rather not make the investment in that facility, but that’s what’s necessary to access a very important market. It is a direct example of how trade policies could help this company, but we have to get on with our work to grow the business by any means possible, and that’s what we’re doing.”

About 43 percent of the company’s bikes are sold outside the U.S., including 16 percent to European markets, according to company figures. The company has manufacturing sites in Brazil, India, Australia and Thailand.

Trump, who once lauded the company for “building things in America,” vowed on Twitter to tax the iconic brand of motorcycles “like never before!” should it move ahead with its plan to increase overseas production.

"A Harley-Davidson should never be built in another country — never!” Trump tweeted. “Their employees and customers are already very angry at them. If they move, watch, it will be the beginning of the end — they surrendered, they quit! The Aura will be gone and they will be taxed like never before!"

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