The Trump administration assailed retaliatory tariffs imposed by Turkey on $1 billion of U.S. goods as the standoff between the two NATO allies over the detention of an American pastor worsened.
The new tariffs are “regrettable” and “a step in the wrong direction,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters Wednesday.
Turkey’s new tariffs follow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s call on Tuesday for a boycott of U.S. electronics including Apple Inc.’s iPhones to retaliate for the Trump administration’s punitive actions over the past few weeks to pressure Turkey into releasing an evangelical Christian minister, Andrew Brunson.
Tensions between the two nations has sent the Turkish lira to record lows and has weighed on global financial markets.
Sanders said the Trump administration “would consider” lifting sanctions imposed on Turkey’s Justice and Interior ministers for their roles in the detention of the pastor once he is released.
Sanders said that even if Erdogan releases the U.S. clergyman, the additional tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum won’t be lifted because they are based on “national security.” Trump cited national security in announcing the tariffs earlier this year, then doubled the levies for Turkish metals amid his clash with Erdogan.
A calculation by Bloomberg shows the items listed in the recent decree accounted for $1 billion of imports last year, similar to the amount of Turkish steel and aluminum exports that were subjected to higher tariffs by President Donald Trump last week.
“The tariffs that are in place on steel won’t be removed with the release of Pastor Brunson," Sanders said.
The lira extended gains Wednesday to 6 percent after Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Bin Al Thani promised to invest $15 billion in the country. It follows a string of urgent steps Erdogan has taken to protect its economy from an escalating feud with U.S. counterpart Donald Trump over an American pastor held in Turkey.