MENOMONEE FALLS, Wis. — House Speaker Paul Ryan said Monday after a tour of a Harley-Davidson factory in Wisconsin he understands why the motorcycle-maker is opening a manufacturing plant in Thailand, calling it a “market-access move.”

Ryan toured the Harley plant in Menomonee Falls, spoke with company and union officials at a closed-door meeting and took questions from reporters. Officials who met with Ryan, including company president and chief executive officer Matt Levatich, were not made available for comment following the event.

Ryan told reporters that he talked with them about Harley’s announcement in May that it was opening a motorcycle assembly plant in Thailand to access the Asian market. He said Harley was forced to make the move because it’s losing market share to foreign competitors that don’t have to pay the same tariffs the U.S.-based Harley does.

Ryan used the plant, scheduled to open next year, as an example of why tax reform is needed in the United States, saying lowering rates here would help them be able to sell abroad.

“Get their tax rates down so it makes more sense to stay here, to make things here,” Ryan said. “We’ve got to find access to those markets so we can make things here and sell them overseas. That means opening up trade barriers, opening up trade agreements and getting things like tax reform done.”

The Harley plant Ryan toured employs about 1,000 people and makes engines and transmissions. The company has announced plans to cut about 180 production jobs, with the Menomonee Falls plant and one in Kansas City expected to bear the brunt of those reductions.

Republicans are determined to overhaul the nation’s tax code after more than three decades, delivering on a top legislative priority for President Donald Trump. Ryan has been out front making the pitch to modernize the tax code for the first time since 1986. He said Monday that Republican leaders plan to present an outline of GOP plans for tax reform next week.

A spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Democratic Party did not immediately respond to an email seeking reaction to Ryan’s comments.


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