You might think the only time the beef industry intersects with motorcycling is when you order a nice medium-rare burger at your local pub's bike night. Think again: The US beef lobby is pushing the government to put an outrageously heavy tax on European-built motorcycles sold in this country, to the tune of 100 percent of a bike's sale price. Talk about a beefy burden!
Over at The Drive, Max Prince lays out the ridiculous turn of events that has led the beef lobby to take such an interest in motorcycle pricing. It goes like this: For the past 20 years, US beef was banned for sale in the European Union, due to the meat's failure to meet Europe's quality standards and prohibition of hormone use. In 2009, the US government negotiated an agreement to allow some "specially-produced beef that meets the EU's standards" to be sold in Europe; that action, the White House stated in December of 2016, "has not worked as intended."
Of note: the World Trade Organization ruled in 1998 that the EU ban on imported beef due to treatment with certain hormones "was not supported by scientific evidence and thus violated WTO obligations." As a result, the WTO authorized the US to slap additional tariffs on a specific list of products imported to our nation from the EU, ostensibly to help the government make up for revenue lost due to US beef not appearing in EU markets.
Here's where the bikes come in: The US beef lobby is petitioning the Office of United States Trade Representatives with an updated "retaliation list" of foreign products that our nation's beef producers want penalized with new tariffs.
Mostly, the list consists of foodstuffs-meats, cheeses, animal products, fruits, fruit juices, mineral waters and the like. But way down at the bottom of the list (which you can read here on the US federal government's public comment page) are two items that have nothing to do with beef or its exportation anywhere:
Item 87112000: Motorcycles (incl. mopeds) and cycles, fitted with reciprocating internal-combustion piston engine with cylinder capacity of over 50 cc but not over 250 cc.
Item 87113000: Motorcycles (incl. mopeds) and cycles, fitted with reciprocating internal-combustion piston engine with cylinder capacity of over 250 cc but not over 500 cc.
In other words, motorcycles that are "products of one or more of the member States of the EU" would be subject to a 100-percent tax, in an effort to make up for Europeans not being able to eat American hamburger.
If the US beef lobby has its way, the delightful, Austrian-built $5500 KTM RC 390 you see above, with its 373cc single-cylinder engine, would suddenly become an $11,000 bike. European brands like Aprilia, BMW, Ducati, Husqvarna, KTM, Piaggio, Vespa and many others would all be affected by the tariff, though only on bikes under 500cc-your big-displacement BMW touring bike would be safe from the beef industry's hackles.
Of course, this presents a major threat to the growing US motorcycle market, potentially threatening thousands of dealerships and their sales and service employees. The American Motorcycle Association put out a scathing press release criticizing the proposal, noting that "consumers will be denied access to certain models of competition and recreational motorcycles that contribute to the lifestyle and wellbeing of millions of American families."
What are we to do? The Office of United States Trade Representatives has opened the beef lobby's proposal to public comment. The last times the lobby tried to include European motorcycles on its taxation hit list-in 2008-the USTR dropped the bike provision after receiving 600 comments decrying the move, the AMA says.
So hop on the USTR's website or use the AMA's commenting tool to make your voice heard-the comment period ends January 30th. Let the government know why a 100-percent tax on European bikes will hurt American motorcycles far more than it will ever help beef farmers. Don't let the big beef lobby bully us into paying double for the bikes we love. It's a total crock of bull-but then again, bull is something the beef lobby deals in.
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