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To Avoid EU Tariffs, Harley-Davidson Will Move Some Work Overseas


The Trump administration's tariffs on steel and aluminum are beginning to yield results, although perhaps not the ones the president was hoping for. Yesterday, Harley-Davidson, an American company, announced that it would move some production of motorcycles overseas to avoid retaliatory European tariffs on American goods. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley tells us about the response in Paris.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: In a public filing statement, Wisconsin-based Harley-Davidson said moving production abroad was its only sustainable option. If the tremendous cost increase were passed on to our European dealers and retail customers, said Harley-Davidson, it would have an immediate and lasting detrimental impact to our European business.

RICHARD CLAIREFOND: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: I reach Richard Clairefond, general manager of a Harley-Davidson dealership in Paris.

CLAIREFOND: The French motorcyclists tend to be extremely passionate about Harleys in general.

BEARDSLEY: Clairefond says the tariffs will put a damper on sales. Taxes on a Harley-Davidson have jumped from 6 to 31 percent, adding at least $2,000 to the price tag of each bike. The EU has also slapped tariffs on Kentucky bourbon and blue jeans. They are made to hurt, says French economy minister Bruno Le Maire.

BRUNO LE MAIRE: (Through interpreter) We're trying to make President Trump reverse his decision, so it's legitimate that we use every means at our disposal to make him understand that tariffs against allies and friends is incomprehensible and unacceptable.

BEARDSLEY: Harley-Davidson produces some motorcycles in Brazil and Asia. That number will now likely increase. Europe accounts for about 17 percent of Harley-Davidson's sales, and France and Germany are its biggest markets. Clairefond says the mystique of the Made in USA label is part of the draw.

CLAIREFOND: We regularly have clients coming by the dealership, asking us if the bikes are still indeed made in the United States.

BEARDSLEY: Clairefond says they were able to say with pride, yes, since 1903 - until now.

Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris.

(SOUNDBITE OF MENISCUS' "INFANT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.