Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Like health care, international trade is complex

President Trump has lauded Harley-Davidson as a (according to NYT) "a pillar of U.S. manufacturing."

But wait, H-D has opened up a new plant.  And it is not in Wisconsin.  It is in Thailand.  H-D claims that production at the Thai plant is aimed at the Asian market and that none of the motorcycles built in Thailand will be shipped to the US.

So why isn't H-D expanding US capacity to serve the Asian market?  Two challenges: (1) savings in labor costs and (2) Thailand imposes a 60% tariff on imported motorcycles.

But what might have happened to that 60% tariff if the US had completed negotiations on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement?  The labor cost difference would not have gone away, but the tariff barrier likely would have become negligible.

Of course union leaders called the Thai plant "a slap in the face to U.S. workers."   And they opposed TPPA.  And they were delighted when the President cancelled TPPA.  But how can they now complain that new production facilities have been opened in Asia?  Sounds like advisors to the unions and the President did not remember much from their economics classes.

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