President Donald Trump on Friday hit Turkey with tariffs, ratcheting up U.S. pressure on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance member to release an American missionary accused of subversion.
The move, which doubles tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum, sent the Turkish lira into an immediate tailspin. It has fallen 70 percent against the dollar over the past year and went off a cliff Friday — declining 15 percent in a matter of hours — as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan delivered a speech urging his citizens to sell gold, dollars and euros in order to prop up the local currency.
“I have just authorized a doubling of Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum with respect to Turkey as their currency, the Turkish Lira, slides rapidly downward against our very strong Dollar! Aluminum will now be 20% and Steel 50%. Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!” Trump tweeted.
The White House later issued a statement explaining that the president imposed the tariffs under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, which gives the president authority to act in the national security interests of the United States.
The “tariffs are imposed on imports from particular countries whose exports threaten to impair national security as defined in Section 232, independent of negotiations on trade or any other matter,” the White House said.
Relations between the United States and Turkey have soured in recent months, in part because Turkey has detained Pastor Andrew Brunson for almost two years on charges of aiding a failed coup attempt in July 2016.
Brunson has vigorously denied having any connection to the events that saw Erdoğan put down his opposition with little trouble. The Trump administration earlier this month imposed sanctions against Turkish officials and demanded Brunson’s release.
For his part, Erdoğan (pictured above left) vowed to stand up to the United States. The Associated Press reported that he discussed economic cooperation with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
I have just authorized a doubling of Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum with respect to Turkey as their currency, the Turkish Lira, slides rapidly downward against our very strong Dollar! Aluminum will now be 20% and Steel 50%. Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 10, 2018
“Hopefully we will overcome this disaster, and we will also successfully overcome this economic war,” Erdoğan said in his speech.
Spanish economist Daniel Lacalle, president of the libertarian Mises Hispano Institute, wrote on his website Friday that the decline of the lira is mostly the result of Turkey’s own mismanagement.
“Erdoğan is fighting against a very dangerous economic foe. Himself,” Lacalle wrote.
Lacalle wrote that the economic turmoil poses a conundrum for Europe. Bailing out Turkey would allow Erdoğan to double down, he wrote.
“Not bailing out Turkey, on the other hand, would cause a much larger crisis than Greece was,” Lacalle added.
Trump’s tariffs drew mixed reactions on the Left. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), one of Trump’s fiercest critics in Congress, backed him.
“On this I agree with @realDonaldTrump,” he tweeted. “Turkey has been trending towards authoritarianism & becoming more anti-American.”
But political scientist Brian Klaas, author of “The Despot’s Apprentice: Donald Trump’s Attack on Democracy,” argued that the president is acting impulsively.
“I’m no fan of Erdogan at all, but this is reckless escalation; Turkey is a NATO member and a US airbase in Turkey is stockpiled with 50 nuclear bombs,” he tweeted. “His tweets continue to pose serious national and international security risks.”