Trump claims Harley Davidson using tariffs as an excuse to close US plant and move to Thailand.

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Back in April 27th of this year, I wrote on my blog post here that I suspected Harley Davidson was using international trade, tariffs and the US withdraw of the TPP as excuses for two unpopular moves by the company: (1) closing a Missouri factory and (2) moving production to Thailand.

As Harley Davidson is a foreign entity in Thailand, it is not easy for Harley Davidson to just decide to open a factory in Thailand overnight, here’s why you can’t just open a factory overnight –

It takes time and planning, sometimes years of planning –¬†corruption and lack of transparency in government and state agencies, high tariffs on imports (ad valorem tariffs from 50-80% according to export.gov), changes in Thailand’s legal frame work increasing rule of law and consumer protection, higher insurance premiums and a lengthy patent registration process (export.gov claims the patent process may take several years). This doesn’t include the time to find the space, building or retrofiting an existing factory, hiring and training a local work force, working out the logistics to get supplies to the assembly line and then all the permitting, registration and other red tape needed.

Today, July 26, 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump accused Harley-Davidson of using trade tensions as an excuse to move production overseas:

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>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. Shows how unbalanced &amp; unfair trade is, but we will fix it…..</p>&mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href=”https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1011568906992017408?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>June 26, 2018</a></blockquote>
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Reuters reported that the plan for the Thailand-made motorcycles would be shipped to the EU to avoid any potential tariffs on US goods. It is estimated the tariffs could cost anywhere from $90 to $100 million per year. The Reuters article also mentioned the move would not result in retail or wholesale price increases in the EU.

Check back for more updates as they become available.

Harley Davidson claims new factory in Thailand a result of US withdrawal from the TPP.

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Credit: Pexels (free stock photos)

According to a Bloomberg article published April 24, 2018, Harley Davidson motorcycle maker opted in on building a factory in Thailand after the Trump administration withdrew US participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). In the first publicized impact of the US withdrawal from TPP, Harley Davidson CEO Matt Levatich indicated the factory in Thailand was “necessary to access a very important market”.

Additionally, the impact of leaving the TPP was also felt locally for the 260 US jobs lost due to the closure of the Missouri plant amind slumping sales in the US.

As a counterpoint to the article – the article does specify that Harley Davidson has seen sales decreasing in 13 of the last 14 quarters. If accurate, the sales declines started long before the TPP was even discussed and long before the US withdrew from participating in the TPP.

It is further important to note that correlation does not mean causality as Harley Davidson sales in the Asia Pacific region were 32,258 in 2015; 32,889 in 2016 and decreased to 30,348 in 2017. Sales decline of Harley Davidson in Asia occurred well before the US withdrew from the TPP.

I believe the US withdraw from participation in the TPP was used by the CEO to justify two unpopular moves – the building of a factory in Thailand and a closure of the Missouri plant.

Thailand seeks admission to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP).

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After the TPP was signed earlier in March, Thailand’s government, through the Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, expressed Thailand’s desire to being a member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

Thailand previously hoped to make progress in negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, which consists of Japan, China, India, and the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Instead, 11 member nations signed the TPP agreement earlier this month.

The TPP will go into effect 60 days after at least 6 member countries complete the necessary domestic procedures to gain approval of the agreement.

Thailand’s government apparently decided to join the TPP to avoid losing out in multilateral free trade.