Trump threat­ens to dou­ble metal tar­iffs on Turkey

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Tracy Wilkin­son and Don Lee Wash­ing­ton Bu­reau

WASH­ING­TON — Fol­low­ing an im­passe in high-level ne­go­ti­a­tions to free an Amer­i­can preacher de­tained in Turkey, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Fri­day said he had or­dered heavy tar­iffs on Ankara’s ex­port of steel and alu­minum to the United States, a puni­tive move that deep­ened a grow­ing po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic rift with the NATO ally.

In a tweet, Trump said he had “just au­tho­rized a dou­bling” of tar­iffs against Turkey, up­ping those on alu­minum to 20 per­cent and steel to 50 per­cent. The U.S. im­ports about $1 bil­lion in steel and alu­minum

from Turkey, so the di­rect im­pact is not likely to be sub­stan­tial.

But the rip­ple ef­fects were sub­stan­tial as the Turk­ish cur­rency, the lira, plum­meted on the news, push­ing the coun­try closer to a full­blown eco­nomic cri­sis, and drag­ging the euro down Fri­day.

With­out men­tion­ing Trump by name, Turkey’s pres­i­dent, Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan de­nounced the U.S. in a speech Fri­day in the Black Sea town of Rize. “They can­not use the lan­guage of threat and black­mail against this na­tion,” he added. “Bul­ly­ing this na­tion will get them nowhere.”

Then he had a friendly chat with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, his of­fice said.

The tar­iffs would be im­posed un­der U.S. reg­u­la­tions that tar­get “im­ports from par­tic­u­lar coun­tries whose ex­ports threaten to im­pair na­tional se­cu­rity,” White House spokes­woman Lind­say Wal­ters said in a state­ment from the New Jersey golf re­sort where Trump has spent most of the last week.

“Our re­la­tions with Turkey are not good at this time!” Trump tweeted. Turkey is a strate­gi­cally lo­cated home to air bases that the U.S. mil­i­tary uses in its wars in Syria, Iraq and else­where.

Trump did not men­tion An­drew Brun­son, an evan­gel­i­cal Protes­tant pas­tor from North Carolina who has been im­pris­oned or un­der house ar­rest in Turkey for nearly two years for his al­leged role in a 2016 coup at­tempt. Trump pre­vi­ously has de­manded Brun­son’s re­lease.

But the lat­est ne­go­ti­a­tions ap­pear to have dead­locked.

Deputy Sec­re­tary of State John Sul­li­van met with his Turk­ish coun­ter­part for two days at the State De­part­ment this week, but the talks ended with no ap­par­ent progress. No fur­ther talks were sched­uled but they weren’t ruled out ei­ther, ac­cord­ing to the State De­part­ment.

The Trea­sury De­part­ment last week black­listed two se­nior Turk­ish of­fi­cials it con­sid­ers most re­spon­si­ble for Brun­son’s de­ten­tion, and ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials hinted at tougher sanc­tions to come.

Brun­son was ar­rested as part of a mas­sive gov­ern­ment crack­down in Turkey fol­low­ing an at­tempted mil­i­tary coup in 2016 that sought to top­ple Er­do­gan. Brun­son, who had worked in Turkey for more than two decades, and the U.S. gov­ern­ment in­sist he is in­no­cent of all charges.

Tens of thou­sands of Turks were ar­rested in the same crack­down, in­clud­ing sev­eral Turk­ish-Amer­i­cans and three Turk­ish em­ploy­ees of the U.S. Em­bassy. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is also seek­ing their re­lease.

Some re­ports sug­gested Turkey was try­ing to trade Brun­son for Fethul­lah Gulen, a Turk­ish cleric who lives in ex­ile in ru­ral Penn­syl­va­nia and whom Er­do­gan has blamed for the coup at­tempt. Gulen de­nies in­volve­ment, and the U.S. gov­ern­ment says it has no ev­i­dence to jus­tify his ex­tra­di­tion.

Turkey also is seek­ing the re­lease of a Turk­ish banker, Mehmet Hakan Atilla, who was con­victed in a U.S. fed­eral court in May on sanc­tions-bust­ing charges re­lated to the pur­chase of Ira­nian oil. He was sen­tenced to 32 months in prison.

Turk­ish au­thor­i­ties at the time sug­gested Atilla, deputy CEO of a ma­jor state bank, had been tried in a kan­ga­roo court and that his prose­cu­tion was po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated.

Re­la­tions be­tween the coun­tries have been strained for more than a year.

Dis­putes in­clude U.S. sup­port for Kur­dish mili­tias fight­ing in Syria, groups that Turkey con­sid­ers ter­ror­ists; Turkey’s pur­chase of Rus­sian weapons de­spite be­long­ing to NATO; and the White House de­ci­sion to trans­fer the U.S. Em­bassy in Israel to Jerusalem, which Ankara op­poses.

Turkey has re­sisted the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ef­forts to iso­late Iran, vow­ing to con­tinue to do busi­ness with Tehran and im­port its oil, de­spite U.S. re­vival of eco­nomic sanc­tions against the Is­lamic Repub­lic since Trump pulled out of the Iran nu­clear deal.

When Er­do­gan vis­ited the White House last sum­mer, he re­port­edly felt slighted when the Jus­tice De­part­ment au­thor­i­ties again re­jected his de­mand for Gulen’s ex­tra­di­tion. His body­guards later brawled with pro­test­ers out­side the Turk­ish am­bas­sador’s res­i­dence, in­jur­ing sev­eral and cre­at­ing em­bar­rass­ing head­lines.

Lo­cal po­lice brought crim­i­nal charges against Er­do­gan’s guards, but even­tu­ally dropped the case. They had long since flown back to Turkey.

Trump has run hot and cold on his ad­mi­ra­tion for Er­do­gan. He has voiced praise for the strong­man, call­ing to con­grat­u­late Er­do­gan on win­ning a ref­er­en­dum that vastly ex­tended his author­ity, and that crit­ics called un­fair. At the June sum­mit of the North Atlantic Treaty Or­ga­ni­za­tion, Trump was seen giv­ing Er­do­gan a fist-bump greet­ing and mouthing the words, “I like him.”

The Brun­son case has drawn vo­cal at­ten­tion from U.S. evan­gel­i­cals, in­clud­ing Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence and Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo. Brun­son, 50, is a mem­ber of the Evan­gel­i­cal Pres­by­te­rian Church.

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