Turkey Slaps Heavy Tariffs On US Goods As Court Denies Release Of American Pastor

Murat Kula/Presidential Palace/Handout via REUTERS

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
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Turkey said Wednesday it will hit several types of U.S. goods with retaliatory tariffs, while a local Turkish court denied an American pastor’s appeal to be released from house arrest.

In an announcement posted to the country’s Official Gazette, Ankara said it would levy import taxes on a wide range of U.S. products including rice, vehicles, alcohol, coal and cosmetics. Tariffs on American cars and alcohol will be doubled to 120 and 140 percent, respectively, according to the notice.

The measures were a response to “the deliberate attack of the US administration on our economy,” Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay wrote on Twitter, according to CNN.

Meanwhile, a court in Izmir rejected an appeal by Pastor Andrew Brunson to be released from house arrest. Brunson has been detained in Turkey since October 2016, when authorities accused him of involvement in a failed coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

A higher Turkish court is still considering Brunson’s appeal and could issue a decision as soon as Wednesday.

Brunson’s case has since become the center of souring relations between Washington and Ankara. The White House says Turkey is holding the pastor on fabricated charges as leverage and should be immediately released.

To force Turkey’s hand on the issue, President Donald Trump said Thursday he would double U.S. tariffs on Turkish imports of steel and aluminum. Washington had already imposed tariff rates of 10 percent on imported aluminum and 25 percent on imported steel in a controversial move in June. (RELATED: Trump Slaps Sanctions On Turkey For Detaining American Pastor)

In response to Trump’s initial metal tariffs, Turkey imposed its own import duties on $1.8 billion worth of U.S. goods. The products targeted in Wednesday’s round of tariffs are the same as those targeted then.

The disputes over trade and Brunson’s detention have contributed to the ongoing crisis with Turkey’s currency, the lira, which has tumbled against the dollar. Although the lira has strengthened somewhat over the past two days, it is still down more than 35 percent against the dollar for the year.

Many analysts say the currency crisis has been brewing for a long time thanks to Ankara’s mismanagement of the economy, including its refusal to raise interest rates and reduce inflation. Turkey has fueled its impressive economic growth in recent years with massive debt denominated in foreign currencies, which becomes more difficult to pay off as the lira continues to slide.

Erdogan has blamed the crisis on Washington, which he says is waging an “economic war” against Turkey. On Wednesday, Erdogan’s office said Turkey would respond in kind to any further U.S. tariffs on Turkish products.

“Turkey is not in favor of an economic war, but we cannot remain with no reaction if there is an attack on us,” Erdogan spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said, according to CNN.

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