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OH-Sen: Former Harley-Davidson dealer Jim Renacci aligns with Trump on tariff conflict

Rep. Jim Renacci aligned himself with President Donald Trump, criticizing Harley-Davidson's decision to move some jobs abroad. (Image source: YouTube video screenshot)

Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Ohio), the GOP candidate in the Ohio Senate race, joined with President Donald Trump in attacking Harley-Davidson for allegedly moving some jobs overseas in response to new tariffs — and Renacci has a personal history with the company, Roll Call reported.

Renacci is a former owner of Harley-Davidson dealerships, but he didn't hold back when calling out the company for using the "excuse" of tariffs to start making some motorcycles overseas.

"Harley-Davidson made the decision earlier this year to move jobs to Thailand before the tariffs were even announced," Renacci said in a statement. "Now they are trying to use the tariffs to excuse and deflect from that decision. As a rider and owner of a Harley-Davidson and as a former Harley-Davidson dealer, I condemn this decision and I strongly urge them to reconsider it."

Why is Harley-Davidson making this change?

The motorcycle manufacturer filed the paperwork Monday to move production of motorcycles sold to the European Union to a location outside the U.S.

Moving the production international will allow Harley-Davidson to avoid tariffs the EU imposed in retaliation for Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs.

According to Harley-Davidson, the move "is not the company's preference, but represents the only sustainable option to make its motorcycles accessible to customers in the E.U. and maintain a viable business in Europe."

The move isn't technically a shift of jobs from the U.S. to an international locale. Harley-Davidson announced the closing of a factory in Missouri in January, but the reason for that was slumping domestic sales numbers.

Contrary to Renacci's statement, Harley-Davidson's opening of a plant in Thailand was not in response to the EU tariffs, nor have they said that's the case. Rather, Harley-Davidson opened a factory in Thailand after Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“We would rather not make the investment in that facility, but that’s what’s necessary to access a very important market,” CEO Matt Levatich said to Bloomberg at the time. “It is a direct example of how trade policies could help this company, but we have to get on with our work to grow the business by any means possible, and that’s what we’re doing.”

How did Trump respond?

Trump criticized Harley-Davidson on Twitter, saying the overseas move upset employees and customers, and would be bad for the company's long-term prospects.

"A Harley-Davidson should never be built in another country -- never!" Trump wrote. "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!"

Everyone on the same page?

Renacci's statement puts him in line not only with Trump, but with his election opponent, incumbent Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown.

Brown has a reputation for his strong, protectionist trade views, and Wednesday, he voted against an amendment that would have limited the president's power to impose new tariffs by requiring congressional approval.

In his dissent to the amendment, Brown told lawmakers that the power to add tariffs was necessary to "defend against further shrinking of two sectors critical to our national defense (steel and aluminum)."

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