Turkey hits back at U.S. with tariff hikes on key products

People line up at a currency exchange shop in Istanbul as Turkey’s lira plunged

"To President Erdogan and the Turkish government, I have a message on behalf of the president of the United States of America: Release pastor Andrew Brunson now, or be prepared to face the consequences", Vice President Mike Pence said last month.

President Donald Trump had previously announced that the USA was doubling steel and aluminium tariffs on Turkey, as the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies row over the detention by Turkish authorities of American pastor Andrew Brunson.

The Turkish government doubled its tariffs on imports of American cars and alcoholic beverages to 120 and 140 percent, respectively, CNN reported.

"The import duties were increased on some products, under the principle of reciprocity, in response to the United States administration's deliberate attacks on our economy", Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said, according to numerous translations of a tweet he sent in Turkish.

After days of heavy losses, the currency stabilized Tuesday, a day after Turkey's central bank said it was taking steps to ensure financial stability and as the finance minister announced he would hold a conference call with worldwide investors later this week.

Markets have been concerned by Erdogan's influence over the economy and his resistance to interest rate increases to tackle double-digit inflation.

Qatar's emir headed to Turkey on Wednesday for talks with President Tayyip Erdogan who is dealing with a collapse of the lira currency and deteriorating relations with the United States.

With the diplomatic spat with the US showing no signs of letting up, Erdogan will be speaking with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday and French President Emmanuel Macron Thursday, his spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said in Ankara. Turkey had previously said it would boycott United States electronic products.

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Turkey hiked Wednesday tariffs on imports of several key USA products in retaliation for American sanctions against Ankara, as a bitter dispute between the two allies that has battered the Turkish lira showed no sign of ending.

In total, companies in Turkey have $217 billion in net foreign-exchange debt, equal to about a quarter of gross domestic product, according to central bank data. "The sanctions, however, that have been placed on Turkey are specific to pastor Brunson and others that we feel are being held unfairly, and we would consider that at that point".

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the U.S. had seen "no evidence that Pastor Brunson has done anything wrong".

Brunson's lawyer said on Tuesday he had launched a fresh appeal to a Turkish court for the pastor's release. Brunson was moved to house arrest in July 2018.

Sanders said that she had no "policy announcement" in response, while Nauert remarked, "We'll wait and see".

There was also optimism about better relations with the European Union after a Turkish court released two Greek soldiers pending trial.

The U.S. economy is 25 times larger than Turkey's, based on nominal GDP.

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