WASHINGTON, June 26 (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump accused motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson Inc on Tuesday of using trade tensions over tariffs as an excuse to move production for European customers overseas.
"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," Trump said on Twitter.
"When I had Harley-Davidson officials over to the White House, I chided them about tariffs in other countries, like India, being too high. Companies are now coming back to America. Harley must know that they won’t be able to sell back into U.S. without paying a big tax!"
Harley-Davidson representatives did not immediately return a request for comment.
The company decided to build the Thailand plant last year after Trump pulled out from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would have lowered import tariffs on its bikes in some of the fastest-growing motorcycle markets in Asia.
Harley-Davidson said on Monday it would move production of motorcycles shipped to the EU from the United States to its international facilities and forecast the trading bloc's tariffs would cost the company $90 million to $100 million a year.
The Trump administration imposed tariffs on imports of European steel and aluminum earlier this month, and in response, the European Union began charging import duties of 25 percent on a range of U.S. products including big motorcycles like Harley's on June 22.
Trump responded angrily to the Harley-Davidson's announcement on Monday, saying he has fought hard for the 115-year-old Milwaukee-based company and was surprised by its plans, which he described as waving the "White Flag."
"I fought hard for them and ultimately they will not pay tariffs selling into the E.U., which has hurt us badly on trade, down $151 Billion. Taxes just a Harley excuse - be patient!" Trump said in a post on Twitter on Monday night.
Harley-Davidson, the dominant player in the heavyweight U.S. motorcycle market, said it would not pass on any retail or wholesale price increases in the EU and instead focus on shifting some U.S. production. (Reporting by Doina Chiacu Editing by Eric Walsh and Frances Kerry)