Donald Trump’s speech to the nation earlier this month invoked the Harley-Davidson name in an attempt to call attention to unfair trade standards negatively affecting American companies. But it turns out that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which Trump turned down during his first day in office, was a major policy that Harley’s CEO and chief lobbyist publicly advocated for in the past.
There were about 8.4 million motorcycles on the road in 2013 alone, and many of them were Harley-Davidsons. In fact, most of them still are. When someone thinks of an American motorcycle brand, Harley is typically the first to come up. So when Trump used the company as an example of an American enterprise being unfairly treated by TPP standards, he was only half right.
He repeatedly called TPP a “job killer” for the U.S. and explained that, like many other American companies, Harley was having trouble competing internationally. But the opposite appears to be true, as almost 40% of the company’s motorcycles were sold outside of the U.S. in 2016.
Trump complained that Harley faces a 100% tariff on imported motorcycles in India, and he’s not wrong. But in 2011, Harley-Davidson opened a factory in India in order to “improve production flexibility, market responsiveness and strengthen operations in the country,” according to a public statement. This factory effectively gives tariff immunity to Harley bikes sold within that country.
So while it’s true that India imposes a 100% tariff on imported motorcycles, Trump’s example wasn’t exactly accurate. In addition, trade experts continue to disagree with his views on TPP.
Max Baucus, former U.S. ambassador to China, agrees with them. He claims that the deal is one of the most “important geopolitically” for the nation. In an interview with CNBC’s “The Rundown,” Baucus explained that the U.S. withdrawal from the partnership makes it look like an unreliable nation.
“The best thing to deal with South China Sea issue is to bring back the TPP, repackage it, change it, call it Trump PP … whatever it takes to show to Asian countries, especially Southeast Asian countries and Japan, that we are present and we are part of the solution,” Baucus said.
According to The Peterson Institute for International Economics, the 12 countries still involved in TPP account for almost one-third of all global trade. Without the U.S. involved, Harley actually could suffer as a result of China’s dominance.
On average, U.S. men and women missed around eight days of work as a result of injury or illness in 2013. But if a lack of involvement in TPP really does hurt American companies, then it could mean American citizens losing jobs and not having the option of time off.