Erdogan vows boycott of U.S. electronics
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s president appeared to escalate a dispute with the United States that has helped foment a Turkish currency crisis, claiming Tuesday that his country will boycott U.S.-made electronic goods.
But behind the scenes, diplomats resumed contact to ease tensions.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, addressing a conference of his ruling party in the capital, added fuel to the spat with the U.S., even as local business groups called on his government to settle it.
Investors seemed to look through the fiery rhetoric, pushing the lira off record lows on confirmation that Turkish and U.S. government officials met Monday.
“We will implement a boycott against America’s electronic goods,” Erdogan told the conference. He suggested Turks would buy local or Korean phones instead of U.S.-made iPhones, though it was unclear how he intended to enforce the boycott.
The move is seen as retaliation for the U.S. decision to sanction two Turkish ministers over the detention of an American pastor on terror-related charges, and to double tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum imports.
Behind the scenes, however, diplomatic dialogue appears to have resumed. U.S. officials say National Security adviser John Bolton had met with the Turkish ambassador to Washington on Monday.
Investors are worried not only about Turkey’s souring relations with the U.S., a longtime NATO ally, but also Erdogan’s economic policies and the country’s high debt accumulated in foreign currencies. Independent economists say Erdogan should let the central bank raise interest rates to support the currency, but he wants low rates to keep the economic growth going.
In a joint statement Tuesday, the industrialists’ group TUSIAD and the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges called on the government to allow the central bank to raise interest rates to help overcome the currency crisis.
The business groups also urged diplomatic efforts with the United States and an improvement in relations with the European Union, which is Turkey’s major trading partner.
The finance chief, Berat Albayrak is due to address hundreds of foreign investors Thursday in a teleconference, the state-run Anadolu Agency said. On Tuesday, he said the government is working on steps to help banks and support companies affected by the currency crisis.
Meanwhile, the lawyer representing Andrew Brunson, the American pastor at the center of the dispute, renewed an appeal for his release from house arrest and for a travel ban imposed on him to be lifted. It was not clear when the court would consider the appeal.
Brunson, 50, is being tried on espionage and terror-related charges, which he and the U.S. government deny. Although he was released to home detention, he faces a prison sentence of up to 35 years if he is convicted at the end of his ongoing trial.
Jeffrey Hovenier, the top U.S. diplomat in Turkey, visited Brunson on Tuesday and called for his case — and those of other detainees — to be resolved “without delay” and in a “fair and transparent manner.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov voiced support for Turkey during a joint news conference with his Turkish counterpart in Ankara, saying that the wide use of sanctions reflect America’s desire to dominate and secure advantages for its businesses.
He said Russia and Turkey have set a goal to switch from dollars to national currencies in mutual trade.
Independent economists caution it would be difficult to unseat the dollar as the top reserve currency as it is used widely in the global economy, for example to trade in oil and for commercial deals.
Erdogan on Tuesday maintained that Turkey’s economy was under attack and that the currency turmoil did not reflect its strength. He renewed a call on Turkish citizens to convert their dollars into the local currency.