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‘They Will Be Taxed Like Never Before!’ Trump Threatens Harley-Davidson Over EU Factory Plans

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President Trump and Vice President Pence inspect Harley-Davidson motorcycles in the White House driveway in February 2017, the day Trump hosted company executives and employees for lunch. (Shealah Craighead/The White House)

WASHINGTON, June 26, 2018 — President Donald Trump on Tuesday threatened to impose higher taxes on Harley-Davidson if the motorcycle builder goes ahead with plans to circumvent the European Union’s recently-announced tariffs against them by moving some manufacturing to Europe.

Trump’s threat, made in the course of a Tuesday morning tweet storm, turned the move by Harley-Davidson — a company he’d embraced as an example of resurgent American industry under his watch — into a fit of personal pique.

“A Harley-Davidson should never be built in another country-never! Their employees and customers are already very angry at them. If they move, watch, it will be the beginning of the end – they surrendered, they quit! The Aura will be gone and they will be taxed like never before!” Trump wrote.

It was unclear how the president planned to tax the company “like never before”  without the consent of Congress, which has the sole power to levy taxes under Article I of the Constitution.

The Milwaukee-based motorcycle builder had played a bit role in one of the earliest controversies of Trump’s presidency when he canceled a visit to its Wisconsin factory, reportedly for fear of encountering protests. Instead, he invited executives to the White House, where he claimed his stance on trade was encouraging manufacturers to return to the United States.

Trump has been lashing out at Harley since Monday

But the president began lashing out at Harley-Davidson since late Monday after the company announced it would open a facility to produce motorcycles for the European market to avoid EU tariffs.

Those tariffs were imposed after Trump declined to renew an exemption to his 25 percent tariff on steel and ten percent tariff on aluminum for Canada, Mexico, or the European Union, and were designed specifically to target industries and companies Trump has promoted or that form part of his political base.

Earlier on Tuesday, Trump also accused Harley-Davidson of using the tariffs as an excuse to move more operations overseas, citing the company’s decision to open a Thailand-based plant to build motorcycles for the Asian market.

“Early this year Harley-Davidson said they would move much of their plant operations in Kansas City to Thailand. That was long before Tariffs were announced. Hence, they were just using Tariffs/Trade War as an excuse. Shows how unbalanced & unfair trade is, but we will fix it,” Trump wrote.

He continued, claiming that his administration is “getting other countries to reduce and eliminate tariffs and trade barriers that have been unfairly used for years against our farmers, workers and companies,” as well as “opening up closed markets and expanding our footprint.”

Trump closed by proclaiming that other countries “will pay tariffs” if they do not “play fair,” despite the fact that tariffs are taxes paid by consumers, not by other countries.

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Andrew Feinberg covers the White House, Capitol Hill, and anything else you can think of for BeltwayBreakfast.com and BroadbandBreakfast.com. Andrew has reported on policy and politics in the nation's capital since 2007, and his writing has appeared in publications like The Hill, Politico, Communications Daily, Silicon Angle, and Washington Business Journal. He has also appeared on both daytime and prime radio and television news programs on NPR, Sirius-XM, CNN, MSNBC, ABC (Australia), Al Jazeera, NBC Digital, Voice of America, TV Rain (Russia) and CBS News. Andrew wishes he could say he lives in Washington, DC with his dog, but unfortunately, he lives in a no-dogs building in suburban Maryland.

Tech

White House Anti-Counterfeit Measure Could Strike at Amazon and eBay

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Pool photograph of Peter Navarro in Trump Tower by Albin Lohr-Jones

WASHINGTON, April 4, 2019 — The White House’s latest move to protect American industries and consumers from counterfeiting could potentially give President Trump an opening to hit back at some of his favorite targets.

National Trade Council Director Peter Navarro on Wednesday announced that the President had signed a Presidential Memorandum to combat “a very serious problem” — the trafficking of counterfeit goods through online marketplaces like Amazon, AliBaba, and eBay.

“President Trump has decided that it’s time to clean up this wild west of counterfeiting and trafficking,” said Navarro. 

Navarro told reporters that the administration’s strategy for combatting counterfeit goods would follow what is now a well-established process of using a Presidential Memorandum to order a study to determine what executive actions can be taken to accomplish a particular goal, followed by an Executive Order to implement the actions recommended by the study.

Consumers, he said, have a 50 percent chance of receiving counterfeit goods through online marketplaces like Amazon, citing data collected during a Customs and Border Protection operation. But shortly after that he admitted that administration officials “certainly don’t know with any certainty how much counterfeiting is going on,” from where the counterfeit goods are coming, or how they are making it into the United States.

Still, Navarro said sites operated by companies like Amazon represent the “central core” of the problem and suggested that the administration is looking for ways to punish them if counterfeit goods are sold through their platform.

“Right now these third-party online marketplaces, together with the ecosystem that supports them…have essentially zero liability when it comes to these counterfeit goods,” he said. “That simply has to stop.”

Making a third-party marketplace operator like Amazon financially liable if counterfeit goods are sold on its platform could potentially deal a huge blow to the company and would undoubtedly impact the bottom line of founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, whom the president has attacked in retaliation for his ownership of The Washington Post.

Trump frequently suggests that Bezos’ purchase of the venerable newspaper — which he often derides as the “Amazon Washington Post” or as a “Lobbyist Newspaper” — was meant to allow him to intimidate politicians and prevent the retail giant from being subject to regulation.

Asked whether there was a chance that Trump’s enmity for Bezos played a role in his decision to go after online marketplaces, Navarro replied that there was “absolutely zero” chance that Trump’s memorandum is a way of targeting Amazon.

A senior White House official who was contacted by BeltwayBreakfast explained that this latest use of executive  authority came to be as a response to “the numerous calls for help from American manufacturers hammered by counterfeiters.”

While the President cannot unilaterally change laws to make third-party marketplace owners liable for the goods sold on their platforms, the official said the study ordered by the memorandum would guide the administration’s next steps, including possible legislation.

An Amazon spokesperson that BeltwayBreakfast reached by email declined to address the possibility that Trump could once again be targeting Amazon, but noted in a statement that the company “strictly prohibits the sale of counterfeit products” and welcomes support from law enforcement.

The spokesperson added that the company “invests heavily in proactive measures to prevent counterfeit goods from ever reaching our stores,” and spends approximately $400 million each year to fight “counterfeits, frauds, and other forms of abuse” with tools that “ensure that over 99% of the products that customers view on Amazon never receive a complaint about counterfeits.”

“Bad actors that attempt to abuse our store do not reflect the flourishing community of honest entrepreneurs that make up the vast majority of our seller community,” the spokesperson said. “We estimate these businesses have created more than 900,000 jobs worldwide and they provide our customers with vast, authentic selection.”

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Foreign Policy

Kudlow Holds Administration’s Line On Turkey Steel Tariff — Says Increase Not Connected To Evangelical Pastor’s Plight Despite Evidence To Contrary

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WASHINGTON, August 16, 2018 — White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said on Thursday that President Trump’s decision to subject steel imports from Turkey to a fifty percent tariff was not in any way connected to the president’s ire over the Turkish government’s treatment of Andrew Brunson, an American evangelical pastor, despite the increase occurring shortly after the Trump administration imposed sanctions in retaliation for his continued detainment on terrorism charges.

“They [the tariffs] are not connected to that story — I think, basically, that the president was dissatisfied with Turkey on trade,” Kudlow said, noting that the tariffs are “subject to constant negotiations.”

Kudlow added that he personally thinks Turkey should release Brunson, but stressed that “policy-wise,” the decision to expand not connected. He declined to say whether the sanctions would be tightened if Brunson is not released, but said Trump “will keep everybody up to speed.”

Brunson, 50, had lived in Turkey for 23 years when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government arrested him in the wake of a 2016 coup attempt on accusations of being a follower of Fetullah Gulen, a Turkish pastor who lives in the United States as an expatriot.

Erdogan says Gulen and his movement, which Turkey considers a terrorist organization, were the masterminds behind the attempted putsch. It is believed that Erdogan’s government continues to hold Brunson as a bargaining chip to force the United States to extradite Gulen, but the Trump administration has not as yet been receptive to the idea.

The White House announced the tariff increase in an August 10 presidential proclamation, shortly after the Trump administration announced it would impose economic sanctions on Turkey in response to the decision by Erdogan’s government to keep  Brunson, on house arrest rather than release him outright,  Both announcements came after both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence began tweeting about Brunson’s plight, and after Pence wrote in a tweet that his release on house arrest was “not good enough.”

Despite the clear appearance of of a connection, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday said the sanctions would be lifted if Brunson is released, but the tariffs would remain.

The tariffs that are in place on steel would not be removed with the release of Pastor Brunson.  The tariffs are specific to national security.  The sanctions, however, that have been placed on Turkey are specific to Pastor Brunson and others that we feel are being held unfairly,” said Sanders.

However, Sanders could not name a specific national security concern that prompted the tariff move.

“The President has been clear about the steel and aluminum industries — steel particularly in this case — that those are industries that must be protected.  And we must have the ability to reach certain levels of manufacturing of those products here in the United States for the purposes of national security,” she said.

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Trade

Kudlow Calls Trump Tariffs and Twitter Tirades Toward Canada ‘Part Of A ‘Family Quarrel’

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WASHINGTON, June 1, 2018 — President Donald Trump’s decision to no longer exempt Canada, the European Union and Mexico from tariffs on steel and aluminum are part of a “family quarrel” that could be resolved soon, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said Friday.

“This is what I regard as a family quarrel, and the conversations are wide open and could well be solved in the months ahead as the conversations continue,” said Kudlow, who spoke to reporters Friday morning outside the West Wing of the White House.

Kudlow called Trump’s tariffs, which he has imposed using national security exemptions in existing trade agreements, “really important” in the president’s push for what he calls “reciprocal” trade agreements.

‘[Trump] wants reciprocity, OK? These are important concepts in the trading game,” Kudlow explained, offering the example of some countries’ tariffs on cars and noting that if a country taxes American cars at 10 percent and the United States taxes that country’s cars at two and a half percent.

Such a situation “needs to be changed,” he said.

While Trump has long railed against other countries tariffs — particularly those levied on American goods by China — his rhetoric on trade has mostly focused on trade deficits, which can often have less to do with tariffs as much as other countries having different resources and different economies. Although the United States does run a trade deficit with many countries in terms of goods sold, it more often runs a surplus when it comes to services because of the United States’ world-leading technology industry.

His focus on deficits was on full display Friday morning when he took to Twitter to rail against Canada a day after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau railed against Trump’s decision to no longer exempt Canada from the 10 percent tariff on Aluminium and the 25 percent tariff on steel imposed earlier this year.

In a statement Thursday, Trudeau had called Trump’s decision “totally unacceptable” and “an affront” to one of America’s oldest allies, whose soldiers have fought and died alongside their neighbors.

“We have to believe at some point common sense will prevail,” said Trudeau. “But we see no sign of that in the U.S. action today.” He also called the development a “turning point in the Canada-U.S. relationship.”

Trump responded overnight with a statement declaring that the US “has been taken advantage of for many decades on trade” and that “those days are over” before recounting a message conveyed to Trudeau: “The United State [sic] will agree to a fair deal, or there will be no deal at all.”

He continued his tirade Friday morning with a tweet in which he claimed that Canada “has treated our Agricultural business and Farmers very poorly for a very long period of time” and called one of America’s largest trading partners ” Highly restrictive on Trade!”

“They must open their markets and take down their trade barriers! They report a really high surplus on trade with us. Do Timber & Lumber in U.S.?”

When Kudlow was asked if Trump’s frequent invocation of trade deficits — with the implication that countries must buy more American goods instead of lowering barriers to entry — was an example of mercantilist (in which one country is forced to buy goods from another, a frequent occurrence in colonial economies) thinking, Kudlow exclaimed: “No, man!” and changed the subject back to tariffs by adding that “the best way to solve trade barriers is to lower the barriers.”

Despite Trump’s frequent denunciations of trade agreements, Kudlow maintained that the president is a “free trader,” but added a caveat:

You’ve got to clear away the debris of unfair and illegal trading practice which has come to litter the world trading system which is badly in need of reform,” he said. “If you can take that and clear that debris, you’ll have the proverbial rainbow at the end of which is a pot of gold, and if you open up that pot, we will have faster economic growth.”

 

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