Speed Reads

Trade Wars

Trump criticized Harley-Davidson, but his steel tariffs had already prompted layoffs

On Monday evening, after the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down more than 300 points as the market digested the fallout from President Trump's growing trade wars, Trump tweeted that he was "surprised that Harley-Davidson, of all companies, would be the first to wave the white flag" by moving production of its iconic motorcycles offshore to avoid paying the European Union's retaliatory tariffs. The EU, Harley's No. 2 market, slapped tariffs on motorcycles, orange juice, bourbon, and other politically sensitive goods after Trump levied steep tariffs on imported aluminum and steel.

"If Trump's trade policies are leading an iconic company like Harley-Davidson to move production out of the United States, then who exactly is benefiting?" asked Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. "This will pose a real challenge to the president's core claim that his policies will lead companies to build more things in the U.S."

But Harley isn't the first U.S. company reacting negatively to Trump's tariffs — on June 15, the last major U.S. nail manufacturer, Missouri's Mid-Continent Nail Corp., cut 60 contract jobs, warning that 200 more layoffs could come by the end of July, and without an import tariff exemption, the entire company could be out of business by Labor Day. There will be winners as well as losers if the trade war escalates, The Washington Post notes — the Tax Foundation predicts that 48,585 American jobs will be lost under the tariffs Trump has already enacted, and more than 250,000 jobs could vanish if he follows through on his China threats. But his steel tariffs have encouraged U.S. steel and aluminum plants to restart production, salvaging hundreds of well-paying jobs.