In June, 2018, then U.S. President Donald Trump imposed a 25-percent tariff on steel and a 10-percent tax on aluminum imports from Europe. Trump justified the move on the grounds of national security, but a highly-damaging trade war ensued shortly after. Following failed negotiations with the U.S., the EU implemented a €6.4B ($7.78B USD) tax on American goods —including big-bore V-twin motorcycles.
Harley-Davidson initially dodged the import taxes by shifting production of its European models to the brand’s Thailand factory. However, the EU caught on to the Motor Company’s clever move in April, 2021. Under its Binding Origin Information (BOI) status, Harley enjoyed a six-percent import fee. Once the EU revoked the company’s BOI credentials and levied current tariffs, H-D's import tax shot up to 56 percent.
Fortunately, the current EU and U.S. administrations agreed to a momentary trade truce at the request of several motorcycle associations and coalitions. The lull bought negotiators time to find an amicable agreement. On October 30, 2021, just one month away from the December 1, 2021, deadline, the two parties forged a deal to end its steel-aluminum disputes.
“We have agreed to pause our steel & aluminum trade dispute and launch cooperation on a Global Arrangement on Sustainable Steel & Aluminum,” said EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis via Twitter.
Both sides expressed satisfaction with the agreement, with U.S. President Joe Biden stating that the deal “immediately removes tariffs on the European Union on a range of American products and lowers costs on American consumers, and ensures a strong and competitive U.S. steel industry for decades to come.”
Of course, those “American products” also include Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Due to Indian Motorcycle’s Opole, Poland factory, the brand wasn’t as concerned with the trade dispute. However, the agreement marked a momentous occasion for the Bar and Shield.
"Today's news is a big win for Harley-Davidson and our customers, employees and dealers in Europe,” admitted Harley-Davidson CEO Jochen Zeitz. “Our thanks go out to President Biden, Secretary Raimundo and the U.S. Administration, for their efforts in this negotiation.
“We are excited that this brings an end to a conflict that was not of our making, and in which Harley-Davidson had no place. This is an important course correction in U.S.-EU trade relations, that will allow us to further Harley-Davidson's position as the most desirable motorcycle brand in the world."