Turkey hits back at U.S. with tariff hikes on key products


After Pastor Andrew Brunson was not released by Ankara when Wednesday's deadline passed, the USA announced new economic penalties against key Turkish exports.

A decree signed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan raised the tariffs on cars to 120%, on alcoholic drinks to 140% and on leaf tobacco to 60%. Other affected products include fruit, coal, paper and rice.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said additional USA sanctions are ready if Turkey refuses to release an American pastor whom the Trump administration says is illegally detained.

Erdogan on Tuesday said Turkey would boycott U.S. electronic goods like iPhones, even though he has himself been photographed repeatedly using the product himself.

Turkey's President Erdogan is calling on his people to boycott other U.S. products as Turkey plunges into a financial crisis and drifts farther away from North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies and closer to Russian Federation. Turkey and the United States have different interests and priorities.

Qatar pledged on Wednesday 15 billion (Dh 55bn) of direct investment into Turkey, amid a diplomatic spat between Ankara and Washington that has triggered a Turkish currency crisis.

Vice President Fuat Oktay tweeted that the new tariffs were retaliation for "the deliberate attack of the USA administration on our economy", CNN said.

Sergey Lavrov, speaking after talks Tuesday with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said the wide use of sanctions reflect Washington's desire to win domination and secure unilateral advantages for its businesses.

More news: Corey Lewandowski questions whether White House nondisclosure agreements are enforceable

The lira has lost more than 40% this year and crashed to an all-time low of 7.24 to the dollar early on Monday, hit by worries over Erdogan's calls for lower interest rates and worsening ties with the US. "The tariffs are specific to national security", Xinhua reported.

Mr Brunson's lawyer Ismail Cem Halavurt on Tuesday appealed again to a Turkish court to release him and lift his travel ban.

'If (the United States) have the iPhone, there's Samsung on the other side, ' he said, referring to U.S. giant Apple's iconic phone and the top South Korean brand.

Turkish officials say President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has spoken with French President Emmanuel Macron, during which Macron said that Turkey's economic stability is important for France.

Turkey has meanwhile resisted pressure to release Brunson - who has been held for two years and is now under house arrest - with officials warning it could face further sanctions.

Trump has repeatedly asked for Brunson's release, while Ankara said the decision was up to the court.

In a press briefing, White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders said, "The tariffs that are in place on steel would not be removed with the release of Pastor Brunson".

The currency had rebounded some 6 percent on Wednesday after the central bank squeezed lira liquidity in the market, effectively pushing up rates and supporting the currency.