Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has outright rejected the notion that economic fundamentals are the reason behind the recent slide in Lira. On Tuesday, Erdogan announced that Turkey would boycott the US electronics products. His announcement came soon after the US President Donald Trump doubled tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Turkey. Trump has been increasing tariffs on imports of a variety of products to protect the US jobs and please voters.
How will Turkey boycott the US electronics?
Tensions between Turkey and the US have been escalating for weeks, and Turkish currency Lira has been a victim of the clash. Lira has declined more than 25% against the US dollar in the past month, but it jumped 6% on Tuesday. Speaking at the 17th anniversary of his Justice and Development Party, Erdogan said, “Whatever we buy from abroad we are going to produce here in better quality and export it. We are going to boycott US electronics.”
He touted local smartphone brands such as Vestel and Venus while attacking the iPhones. It is unclear how he intends to implement the boycott. Is he merely urging his countrymen to stop buying US electronics or will his government officially ban the import?
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It has become a fight between Erdogan and Trump
Erdogan also accused the US of having stabbed its NATO ally “in the back.” The US President has imposed economic sanctions on Turkey over the detention of Andrew Brunson, who has been imprisoned in Turkey for the last 20 months. Trump claims the American pastor is innocent, and has demanded an immediate release of Brunson. Ankara has maintained that it was up to the courts to decide whether or when the pastor would be released.
Andrew Brunson has been accused of being involved in a failed coup attempt against Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2016. According to political pundits, the coup attempt was led by Fethullah Gülen of the Gülen political movement. Fethullah Gülen has been living in Pennsylvania for almost two decades. On Monday, Donald Trump signed a defense bill blocking Turkey’s access to the F-35 stealth fighter jet. Ironically, Ankara was directly involved in the development of the F-35.
It looks like Erdogan does not want to (or cannot afford to) back down or resolve the dispute. Erdogan has the reputation as a strong leader in his country. He doesn’t want to cave in to the White House by releasing Andrew Brunson. Instead, he said his country had become the target of an economic war by one of their long-time allies.
The Washington Institute’s Turkish research program director Soner Cagaptay said it was no longer a diplomatic spat between two countries. It has now become a direct confrontation between Donald Trump and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, especially over the release of Andrew Brunson. “This is a fight between the two presidents now,” said Cagaptay.
Donald Trump will likely keep slapping sanctions on Ankara until Andrew Brunson is released. According to Cagaptay, the sanctions will further strengthen Erdogan’s narrative that the US was “attacking us.”