As reported in the above-linked article, President Trump complains that EU (European Union) tariffs on Harley Davidson motorcycles are “unfair.” I disagree. Tariffs are neither “fair” nor “unfair.” They’re simply a tool used by nations to manage foreign access to their economy. Every nation should be free to use them as they see necessary for their own best interest. In this case, the EU has decided that it doesn’t want Harley Davidson infringing on their domestic motorcycle industry. That’s fine. That’s their right.
We should do the same. Is it acceptable for EU motorcycle imports to infringe on our motorcycle industry? If we see value in having a vibrant motorcycle manufacturing industry, then the answer is no, and the U.S. should impose its own tariffs on EU motorcycle imports. Both sides win. The EU protects its motorcycle industry and the U.S. does likewise. Otherwise, if we don’t really care if we have any motorcycle industry in the U.S., then there’s no need for tariffs.
It’s as simple as that. It’s pointless to try to threaten the EU into dropping their tariffs. They’ve already decided that they need them, in spite of the potential ramifications that they surely considered when they imposed them. So stop putting our trade policy in the hands of our competitors and seize control of the situation by taking actions that are within our control – not theirs.
Beyond the motorcycle industry, Trump needs to consider a whole range of imports from the EU that impact our economy. For example, is it in the best interest of our domestic auto industry and our labor force to cede a large percentage of auto sales to EU imports? Of course not. But that’s exactly what we’re doing. We have an enormous trade deficit in automobiles with the EU. It’s long past time to impose tariffs that will restore balance to trade in automobiles. We should buy no more from them than they buy from us. Imposing large enough tariffs on EU auto imports is the only way to make that happen.
Come on, Mr. President, it’s time to stop playing the victim, as your predecessors have done for decades, and take meaningful action to restore a balance of trade with the EU.