Trump doubles tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum, says relations 'not good'

Trump vows to double steel and aluminum tariffs on Turkey

Trump Doubles Tariffs On Steel, Aluminum From Turkey

President Trump turned a simmering conflict with Turkey to a boil, tweeting that he would double tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum.

President Donald Trump said in a tweet Friday that he would hit Turkey with additional tariffs, as their national currency continues to drop. Import taxes for aluminum will be 20 percent.

"Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!" he said in an early morning post.

The United States is the biggest destination for Turkish steel exports.

Trump decided in March to impose import duties of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum imports from several countries, including Turkey.

For a start, investors are anxious that Turkish companies that borrowed heavily to profit from a construction boom may struggle to repay loans in dollars and euros, as the weakened lira means there is now more to pay back.

On Friday, as the Lira plunged and the USA imposed its higher sanctions on Turkey, Turkish President Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke on the phone.

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Without naming countries, Erdogan said supporters of a failed military coup two years ago, which Ankara says was organised by a US-based Muslim cleric, were attacking Turkey in new ways since his re-election two months ago.

"The surge in Turkish inflation, bond yields and the even more dramatic plunge in Turkey's exchange rate in 2018 suggest that the country could now be in danger of heading for a bust", Berenberg economist Carsten Hesse said.

The lira has been under sustained pressure on foreign exchanges, dropping by nearly 50% against the dollar in the past 12 months.

On Aug. 1, the US Treasury announced it was freezing the assets of Turkey's justice and interior ministers over Brunson's continued detention. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence threatened on July 26 to impose sanctions on Turkey if the pastor is not set free and allowed to return to the United States.

U.S. investors shifted focus from strong corporate earnings to the rout in Europe, sending the major stock-market indexes lower. The lack of central-bank action to support the currency is also spooking investors and Erdogan's previous comment that interest rates are the "mother and father of all evil" hasn't helped. "But if the United States can't handle relations with Turkey ... then a further deepening of relations with Moscow is an option".

Far worse than that, though, is this has also sent Turkey's currency on a downward spiral that threatens to destroy its entire economy.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan struck a defiant note in a series of Twitter messages shortly before Trump's announcement.

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The lira's value fell about 13 percent against the dollar on Friday.

In Washington, where Turkey seems to have lost its friends and faces a passionate anti-Erdogan lobby of which the Gulenists are an important part, there may be wishful thinking that an economic collapse could sweep him from power.

The Lira has plunged 66% since the start of the year, pushing up the cost of goods for Turkish people and shaking global investors' confidence in the country.

So, to hike tariffs on Turkey, Trump needed a reason why maintaining America's domestic metal industry required imposing even steeper tariffs on Turkish exports than were already in place.

Turkey, home to the Incirlik air base which is used by USA forces in the Middle East, has been a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member since the 1950s and a close ally of the United States.

A year ago, there were 3.5 liras to the U.S. dollar. Overnight it had retreated to its lowest since November 2016 on threats of new US sanctions, weakening beyond the psychologically important 65-per-dollar threshold.

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