US President Donald Trump sure seems to have a thing for Harley-Davidsons. His first salvo against India was over the import duty imposed on the American motorcycles. The bikes are back in spotlight, with Trump on Monday calling for a cut in the duty, ignoring the fact that it was reduced from 100% to 50 % in February. He claimed that the ‘50%’ levy was ‘unacceptable’. In Trump’s reciprocal world view, an acceptable level would be 0%, which is what the US charges on Indian motorcycles. However, in the India-US trade basket, the number of motorcycles shipped from India to the US is minuscule. In fact, ‘motorcycles’ don’t even merit a mention in the Indian ministry of commerce and industry’s most recent data on exports to the US. Moreover, only a handful of Harvey models were fully imported from the US, while most were assembled in India.
Trump’s seems to be a one-man effort to keep the company humming along like one of its long-distance tourers. The problem is that Harvey-Davidson’s financial performance has been on a downslide with a falling market share in its home market. Even its plan to introduce an electric model is a risky bet that may win over some consumers but turn off its die-hard fans. So while it is unlikely that the turbulence the company faces will ease even if India brings down the customs duty to nil, it is as unlikely that Indo-US trade ties will be smooth sailing.