WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday sought to frame Harley-Davidson’s decision to move production of some motorcycles overseas as surrendering to avoid European tariffs.
It was a sign of an early administration strategy as companies wrestle with Trump’s trade fights, which he says will benefit American workers.
“Surprised that Harley-Davidson, of all companies, would be the first to wave the White Flag,” Trump wrote on Twitter as he flew aboard his Marine One helicopter from the White House to Joint Base Andrews.
“I fought hard for them and ultimately they will not pay tariffs selling into the E.U., which has hurt us badly on trade, down $151 Billion. Taxes just a Harley excuse – be patient!” he wrote.
The Wisconsin-based motorcycle firm announced on Monday it would shift production of motorcycles intended for European consumers out of the United States, hoping to avoid European Union retaliatory tariffs. Those were applied last week in response to Trump’s own tariffs on steel and aluminum.
For motorcycles, the European bloc raised its 6% tariff to 31%. That will make each bike about $2,200 more expensive to export, Harley-Davidson said.
In a regulatory filing, Harley wrote that shifting production was “not the company’s preference, but represents the only sustainable option.”
Trump has made a manufacturing revival central to his economic message, hoping to retain his political base of white blue-collar workers. He’s said the tariffs he’s applying will realign trade imbalances that harm US workers.
But companies have warned that retaliatory tariffs could be devastating for business, or lead to higher prices for US consumers.
Trump’s tweet on Monday is a sign the administration will continue placing blame on US trading partners, even as American companies shift production or lay off workers amid escalating trade battles.