American trade body proposes 100% import tax on European motorcycles

Published: 19 January 2017

The Office of US Trade Representatives is currently looking at a 100% import tax for European motorcycles between 50 and 500cc

With Brexit coverage overshadowing our daily news coverage, many of us will be intricately familiar with the precise negotiations of international trade agreements – namely, it’s a bit of give and take with some mild threatening here and there. Not wishing to break with tradition, the USA is currently doing exactly that and it could well drive up the cost of bikes in the UK.

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The roots of this go a long way back, but in short American beef (on the whole) cannot be imported into the EU because it doesn’t meet European standards for food safety. The beef lobby isn’t happy about this, so they’ve proposed a list of tariffs to the US Trade Office in the hope this will strong-arm the EU into accepting American beef. Most of it is food related, but one of the things on the list is a suggested 100% import tax on European motorcycles. The US is a big market for lots of brands, including Ducati and Triumph, so an import tariff could put a huge dent in their sales that could lead to increased prices in other markets.

How likely is this to happen? In truth it’s not that likely. The motorcycle import tariff has been tabled twice before and never made it past the consultation stage, however with a new president on the way who is in favour of industrial protectionism the chance is greater than ever. It also wouldn't be the first time America has done this. Back in 1983, as recorded by the New York Times, President Reagan introduced a 45% import tariff on Japanese motorcycles over 700cc to give breathing room to a struggling Harley-Davidson. With the help of the tariff, HD bounced back into profit and the tariff was dropped in 1987.

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