Beef And Motorcycles: 100% Import Tax On European Motorcycles?

Published January 20, 2017

Beef and motorcycles are two things that really have very little in common with each other – but the Office of US Trade Representatives have other thoughts on the matter. What the hell are we talking about? In brief, beef farmers are a little pissed off with the EU, because they’ve imposed a blanket ban on the import of American beef. In retaliation, beef farmers are calling for a 100% import tax to be slapped on to all European made motorcycles between 50 and 500cc. You’ll be pleased to know that motorcycles won’t be the only victim if such a threat becomes a real thing…other Euro made consumer goods will also face a nice tax hike. You know, the usual stuff like Italian olive oil, Swiss chocolate…but motorcycles? It’s a new one…

Basically, American beef doesn’t conform to stringent European food laws. The use of growth hormones and the like mean that it doesn’t meet the EU’s minimum food safety requirements, and so the European Union has placed a blanket ban on the import of American beef. Naturally, this kind of ban hurts the American meat industry, and in response the Office of US Trade Representatives have come up with a way of hurting European industry: by threatening to impose a 100% import tax on European motorcycles. Luckily, we doubt any type of legislation like this will ever go through… But if you ever wanted to see some beef literally trying to f*ck the motorcycle industry, here’s an illustrative video…

Weirdly, it’s the 50cc – 500cc segment that are in the firing line. Of course, Ducati do have their sub-500cc Scrambler model, but luckily most of their big sellers in the US are above the theorized tax threshold. However, brands like KTM and GasGas would definitely suffer. Small off-road orientated bikes would definitely feel the pain from a 100% import tax slapped on to them. And good luck buying a new KTM 390 or Husqvarna’s new Vitpilen 401…

When this story first broke, a lot of people were comparing it to the old Harley story from the 80s, where Japanese motorcycles over 700cc were taxed to high-heaven (45% import tax). But this isn’t the same sort of story. Back then, the powers that be were protecting the waning American motorcycle industry, and it worked out. Now, the move isn’t about protection, it’s just a bit…spiteful. It sounds like they’re protecting interests, but if the EU don’t want the beef with hormones in it, then they don’t want the beef with hormones in it. Simple as that.

But will it ever happen? I’m no professional when it comes to international trade disputes, but I can’t see this one flying. Similar taxes have tried to be passed in the past, and they never came into fruition. You could argue that the Trump administration will be more protective of American industry, but again, this isn’t about protecting anything. It’s about forcing open a new market by using consumer goods as leverage. And it’s never worked before, so we don’t think it’s going to work now.


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Joe Appleton
About Joe Appleton

I’ve done a bit of work here and there in the industry – I’ve even ridden a few bikes for actual money but what it comes down to is this: I ride bikes, build bikes and occasionally crash ‘em too. I like what I like but that certainly doesn’t make my opinion any more valid than yours…

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