Huntsman calls for more US manufacturing at N.H. plant

ROCHESTER, N.H. – Visiting a motorcycle manufacturing plant, the Harley-riding Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman called for an increase in American manufacturing.

“We need to combine the spirit of innovation with the ability to manufacture,’’ Huntsman said. “Now we’ve lost half the equation. We have some innovation down, but we have lost the manufacturing.’’

Speaking informally to a handful of business owners and local officials outside Rokon Motorcycles, Huntsman said President Obama should send to the Senate pending free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia, and South Korea. “They’re good because they basically take their tariff rates down to a more competitive level for our exporters, and they open more market opportunities for our exporters, which is a job creator here,’’ Huntsman said.

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Referring to claims that trade agreements send American jobs overseas, Huntsman said it isn’t trade agreements that lose jobs. “It’s a lack of recognition of the environment we need here to maintain manufacturing jobs,’’ he said, mentioning specifically high taxes and too much regulation.

Huntsman has made increasing American manufacturing a central tenet of his economic platform. He is campaigning in New Hampshire for four days, and his 23-year-old daughter Liddy joined him on the trail today.

Rokon has about $2 million in annual revenue and sells bikes worldwide, for use by customers from the Jordanian military to US elk hunters. Tom Blais, president of Rokon and a Huntsman supporter, echoed a common claim that Huntsman makes on the trail, that unnecessary government regulation is hurting his business. He told the former Utah governor about the Hoffco Comet company in Indiana, which manufactures clutches and went bankrupt. Blais bought the company’s tools and designs, and now assembles the clutches at Rokon. “We can’t let manufacturing lapse,’’ Blais said.

After the business tour, Huntsman, wearing jeans and a plaid shirt, removed his sports coat and took a spin on a bike.

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