President Donald Trump expressed his support for the boycott of Harley-Davidson motorcycles this Sunday. Trump expressed his satisfaction with the planned boycott amidst Harley-Davidson’s plan to move some of its manufacturing overseas, it’s a rare moment when a sitting president used the power of his office to take on a private American company. The company was founded in Milwaukee, back in 1902. It’s estimated that Harley-Davidson could lose well over $100 million as a result of the steel tariffs imposed by the Trump administration.
The president’s tweet came after meeting “Bikers for Trump” at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey. Trump’s feud with Harley-Davidson started a few months back, but his relationship with the company hasn’t always been bitter. Just a few weeks ago, the president had praised Harley-Davidson calling it a “true American icon and one of the greats”. However, the tone changed soon after the company announced it was considering producing the bikes for Europe in overseas countries.
Harley-Davidson has had a long-standing policy of ensuring that all bikes sold in the US are all made in the US. However, they see value in shipping manufacturing to other countries for bikes headed for sale on other markets. Clearly, the president wasn’t happy to hear about this. In a tweet sent in June, Trump warned that moving production overseas would be suicidal for Harley-Davidson, calling the decision “the beginning of the end”. The Sunday morning tweet appears to have escalated the matter.
This is, in fact, the first time Trump has openly called for a boycott of an American company. The steel tariffs imposed by the White House in March this year have served as the catalyst for a possible trade war between the US and its traditional trading partners. As trade tensions grew, Trump managed to reach an agreement with the EU last month to prevent further escalation. Nonetheless, Trump has made it clear he intends to move forward with the tariffs as a central part of his trade policy. He says that the tariffs are designed to bring American trade partners to the table for a possible renegotiation of current trade treaties.
So far things haven’t moved as quickly as Trump hoped. Trade escalation with China is also a possibility: the President threatened the Chinese with $200 billion in tariffs after Beijing targeted US farmers as part of a response to an initial $50 billion tariff plan slapped by the Trump administration. Chinese and US trade officials have met several times in Beijing and in Washington, but so far no deal has been achieved.
The president’s decision to publicly support the boycott of Harley-Davidson is not entirely surprising. Trump has often called on boycotts even before he became president. At one point during his campaign, he urged his supporters to boycott Macy’s. Trump has also called on his supporters to boycott Apple until the company starts cooperating with federal authorities to access phone data for radical Islamic terror suspects. Despite president Trump’s threats, Harley-Davidson still maintains their decision to move operations overseas.