Turkish President Erdogan

Turkey bites back at Trump tariffs, targetting US electronics

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In the escalating row with the United States, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has announced that Ankara will boycott all American-made electronic products, including the iPhone.

The annoucement was made in an immediate and direct response against President Trump’s decision to double the tariffs imposed on aluminum and steel for Turkey.

Erdoğan announced yesterday that Turkey would no longer buy iPhones from US tech giant Apple, but would instead turn to South Korea's Samsung or Turkish-made Vestel products instead.

“We will boycott American electronic goods. If they have iPhone [sic], there is Samsung on the other side. We have Vestel Venüs in our country. We will adopt these measures,” Erdoğan said, although the steps his government would take to enforce such a boycott were not outlined.

In the space of only a few days, the Turkish lira has been significantly devalued against the dollar, having already lost approximately 45 per cent of its value this year at a time of rampant domestic inflation. It recovered from a record low yesterday, after the Turkish central bank put new liquidity measures in place. Other global currencies, such as the Indian rupee, Argentina’s peso and South Africa’s rand have also been negatively affected by the Turkish lira crisis.

Erdoğan rejected any suggestion that economic policy was the cause of the lira weakness, insisting instead that Turkey was the target of an economic war from the US, a “global campaign led by the Trump administration.”

“There is an open economic attack on Turkey. These things used to be done covertly and in a more sophisticated way in the past. Now they are doing it directly,” he said.

He called for Turks to sell their dollars and euros in exchange for lira to help shore up the national currency and “fight against plots” in the perceived attack “which has no economic explanation.” Erdoğan also accused Trump and the US of “stabbing Turkey in the back”.

Reacting to Trump’s tariffs hike, he challenged the international legitimacy of the decision: “Do [the measures approved by Trump] have any relation with the World Trade Organization’s principles? Regardless of whether you are a president or not, you cannot say that I am imposing extra tariffs on aluminum and steel. All countries are making calculations over this; they have taken steps over this. Will there be any trust left?"

“On the one hand you are a strategic partner, on the other you shoot your partner in the foot and stab it in the back.”

However, internally, Turkish manufacturers and businesses have called on Erdoğan’s government to introduce a tighter economic policy to minimise any fallout from the lira's potential collapse. A joint statement was issued, asking for “a concrete roadmap” to be prepared “to lower inflation permanently”, according to Turkish newspaper Hurriyet.

Erdoğan’s position is that Turkey should become “self-sufficient” and not have to rely on foreign imports - in particular, anything from the US.

“They should understand what we have done and what we will do. We will be self-sufficient. We will produce what we do not have. We will export all the products that we purchase by producing better versions,” he said, calling on Turkish businesses to “not slow down on production, [but to] produce more.”

“Produce, produce and produce. Export, export and export. And we will provide more jobs. We will put in more effort."

“If we stop production in a wait-and-see approach, and hamper production, postpone investments by saying let us see the future first, or direct our money to foreign currency by saying there is a danger, then we will kneel down before our enemy,” he said.

Despite being ostensibly NATO allies, simmering tension between Turkey and the US has stemmed from several issues over recent months, including a difference of opinion over Syria; Ankara’s intention to buy new defence systems from Russia, and the controversial detention in Turkey of American pastor Andrew Brunson over allegations of espionage.

Trump’s ongoing rollout of tariffs against other countries, a key part of his strategy to shore up the US domestic economy, already include 30 per cent on imported solar components and the opening salvoes in a significant US trade war with China, a tactic that many financial observers have strongly cautioned against.

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