By Christian Smith
Democratic Congressman Emanuel Cleaver says that Harley-Davidson's decision to move some of its motorcycle production abroad is just the first sign of a slowdown in the American economy and that President Trump's tariffs are to blame.
"The markets gave (President Trump) some indication that the direction he is going with these tariffs is going to be an impediment for the continued growth for the U.S. economy," Rep. Cleaver, who represents Missouri's Fifth District, said in an interview on Cheddar Tuesday.
"I think we're going to end up seeing that (with) the combination of this trillion-dollar tax cut and the tariffs, the United States economy, which has been humming on all cylinders for the last seven years frankly, is going to cool down."
The Milwaukee-based motorcycle manufacturer announced Monday that it would move manufacturing for some of its motorcycles destined for sale abroad to its existing international facilities. The company cited recent tariffs implemented by the European Union in retaliation to tariffs imposed by President Trump on the EU.
Harley-Davidson said that the tariffs would increase the cost of its motorcycles by about $2,200 each if manufactured in and shipped from the U.S. The EU accounted for about 16.4 percent of the company's global sales in 2017.
The iconic American motorcycle company had already announced plans to close is Kansas City plant in January due to four straight years of slowing sales. It initially planned to move production to its York, Penn., plant. The company still plans to move forward with the consolidation in addition to shifting some production to international facilities.
Altogether, 800 jobs will be eliminated with the Kansas City plant closes, in 2019.
President Trump fired back at the company with a barrage of tweets on Tuesday, threatening to tax Harley-Davidson "like never before" if the company followed through with its plan to move some operations abroad. The president added that any shift in production would be "the beginning of the end."
Harley-Davidson's decision to close its Kansas City plant hits especially close to home for Rep. Cleaver who was mayor of Kansas City in the early 1990s when the city beat out 100 other competitors to win the plant. City's leaders won out by offering Harley-Davidson a combination of incentives including tax breaks and a $3 million piece of equipment the plant required to comply with Missouri state air quality regulations.
"We're going to end up with a vacant building that the taxpayers of Kansas City put money into," Cleaver said. "It could conceivably be years before we are able to attract another business or another company to take that facility."
Cleaver added that the president needs to be more aware of the reality that companies will do whatever they need to do to improve their bottom lines ー in this case shipping hundreds of jobs overseas.
"It is a complicated issue, and it's not something you can do with a tweet," Cleaver said.
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