Including motorcycles in a trade dispute over U.S.-raised beef products reflects "a cynical approach to trade policy to look for the largest grassroots reaction you can find to pressure European governments," the American Motorcyclist Association told a federal agency.
"This is a highly inappropriate use of the motorcycle community," AMA President and CEO Rob Dingman told the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative in a letter responding to questions and comments made during a Feb. 15 hearing in Washington, D.C. "It appears that to this committee, motorcyclists are simply pawns in a game of international chess."
Accompanying the letter was a petition containing 6,579 signatures of motorcyclists opposing the proposed tariff.
The USTR proposed a 100 percent tariff on 51cc to 500cc motorcycles imported from the European Union. Motorcycles are recommended for a tariff alongside other products as part of a dispute with the European Union over the amount of U.S.-raised beef EU countries accept. The dispute originated over the U.S. beef industry's use of hormones.
The tariff would affect motorcycles with engines displacing 51cc to 500cc from Aprilia, Beta, BMW, Ducati, Fantic, Gas Gas, Husqvarna, KTM, Montesa, Piaggio, Scorpa, Sherco, TM and Vespa.
Dingman's rebuttal letter reiterated his comments made during the February meeting after William L. Busis, chair of the USTR Section 301 Committee explained why his office included motorcycles in the tariff proposal.
When Dingman and motorcycle-industry representatives challenged the USTR's proposal, Busis responded that the agency hoped American motorcyclists would reach out to their European counterparts "and suggest to them maybe they could talk to their government, who could then talk to the commission, and then maybe we could resolve this dispute."
"In reality, this committee is playing with peoples' lives and livelihoods," Dingman wrote in his rebuttal. "The negative effects of the proposed trade sanctions would cause dramatic and possibly irreparable harm to the motorcycle industry and spread through the aftermarket equipment sector, recreation equipment sales, the sports entertainment industry and further down the line.
"But those who will suffer the most from this proposed tariff are the Americans who use smallå_ displacement motorcycles and scooters for outdoor recreation and urban riding," Dingman continued. "These are products that are not offered by American manufacturers.
"Instead of viewing the American motorcycling community as pawns with an imagined grassroots reach far beyond our shores, the committee needs to grasp the significant hardships this tariff will cause to hardworking, everyday tax-paying Americans," Dingman concluded.
Dingman met personally with the president of the FÌ©dÌ©ration Internationale de Motocyclisme in Geneva, Switzerland, and asked him to weigh in on this issue. In a subsequent letter to the USTR that Dingman included as part of his testimony, FIM President Vito Ippolito asks that motorcycles be removed from the tariff list.
The AMA also objects to threatening a tariff on nonagricultural products to create leverage in a purely agricultural trade dispute.
Before the February hearing, opponents sent more than 10,300 emails to Congress on this issue, posted more than 9,400 comments to Regulations.gov, and sent nearly 5,300 emails to President Donald Trump. Of the comments sent via Regulations.gov, 82 percent came from the AMA.