Turkey retaliates by raising tariffs

Andrew Brunson centre was released from prison but put under house arrest last month. If found guilty he faces 35 years in jail

Andrew Brunson centre was released from prison but put under house arrest last month. If found guilty he faces 35 years in jailMUSTAFA KOPRULU EPA

The decree will raise tariffs on American vehicle imports by 120-percent, alcohol by 140-percent and tobacco by 60-percent.

"Turkey does not favor an economic war, but it can not remain unresponsive when it is attacked", presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said.

Turkey is now grappling with a currency crisis and heightened tensions with the United States, its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally.

Some Turks are reacting with defiance to their plunging currency and an escalating trade and political dispute with the United States - an indication that they are ready to endure economic pain and risk further deterioration in a key, yet troubled alliance dating from the Cold War.

"We request the Turkish gross markets, BIM and A101, not to sell any USA products, including Coca-Cola", read a tweet posted with a hashtag "boycott". Worldwide investors have been put off by the country's high levels of foreign debt and Erdogan's refusal to allow the central bank to raise interest rates to support the currency, as experts say it should.

Turkey is retaliating against the Trump administration's newly imposed sanctions.

Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Bin Al Thani has pledged the amount in his meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on Wednesday, according to state-run Anadolu Agency. Though it was unclear how the boycott would be enforced or encouraged.

The Turkish lira plummeted to a record low on Monday, losing almost 40 percent of its value since the start of 2018.

The move by Turkey's Gulf ally offered further support to a lira rally after the Turkish central bank tightened liquidity and curbed selling of the currency.

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

And Erdogan held a phone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and planned to speak this week also with France's Emmanuel Macron.

But fundamental concerns about the economy persist, experts say.

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Erdogan's clear message was, "We will not raise interest rates in the face of a currency collapse", Stein explained.

Switching to foreign currency would mean giving in to the enemy, he added.

Turkish Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, who is Erdogan's son-in-law, and his Qatari counterpart Ali Sharif Al-Emadi were present at the talks in the capital Ankara. If the Turkish government does not eventually agree to US demands and release him early, Brunson could spend 35 years in prison.

Turkey and Qatar have traditionally maintained good ties and Ankara stood by Doha after Saudi Arabia and other Arab states severed diplomatic, trade and travel ties with Qatar past year, accusing it of financing terrorism, a charge Doha denies.

U.S. President Donald Trump last week ramped up his attack on Turkey by doubling tariffs on Turkish aluminum and steel imports.

Turkey on Wednesday rejected the U.S.' appeal for an American pastor's release from detention, Turkish media reported. A higher court however, was scheduled to review the appeal, the agency said.

The evangelical pastor, who is originally from Black Mountain, N.C., has lived in Turkey for 23 years and led the Izmir Resurrection Church.

Kalin also called on the United States to respect legal process in Turkey in reference to the American pastor's continued detention.

The pastor was detained after being accused of being a member of the Gülen movement, which the Turkish government considers to be a terrorist organisation - something Brunson denies.

Yet last September, Erdogan suggested that Turkey could free Brunson if Washington handed over Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania.

Brunson was arrested in October 2016 during a nation-wide purge of suspected dissidents following the aftermath of a failed coup in July 2016.

Turkey has also been publicly critical of criminal prosecutions in the US involving state-run Halkbank official Mehmet Hakan Atilla, as well as Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian gold trader.

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