The “economic war” between Ankara and Washington, as the Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan has defined it, could push the country to move further and further away from its historic allythe US, in favor of China, Russia , Qatar and other nations of the area. In the latest chapter in the saga, Turkey’s president has laid out a path of commercial and diplomatic escalation with Donald Trump and his country.
Regardless of the appeals of Tusiad, the Turkish Industrial Federation that urged a lowering in tone, the Ankara leadership calls for a boycott of US electronic products and signed a decree that raises the tariffs on some US imported goods. These include cars (plus 120%), alcohol (140%), tobacco (60%), rice and sunscreens.
The upside, warns Turkish vice-president Fuat Oktay, is a move “to counteract the deliberate attack of the US administration on our economy”. A “risky” move according to some analysts that could fuel the commercial and diplomatic tension in progress. The doubling of the Turkish tariffs on 22 types of products amounts to 533 million dollars. The technology sector is also being targeted and products such as Apple’s iPhone, the smartphone used by the same president Erdogan, who is inviting fellow citizens to contact the competitor Samsung.
Washington has long been at loggerheads with Ankara after the Turkish decision to arrest an American evangelical pastor on charges of espionage in favor of the Islamic preacher Fetullah Gulen, self-exiled for years in Pennsylvania and considered the mastermind of the 2016 coup attempt. In these days a Turkish court has again rejected the request for revocation of house arrest for Andrew Brunson, who has spent some time in prison.
The White House has launched an economic, commercial and diplomatic offensive for his liberation, so far in vain. President Trump himself had announced the doubling of tariffs on steel and aluminum from Turkey and to impose individual sanctions on two Turkish government ministers. The sale of US f-35 fighter jets has also been blocked.
As a result, the Turkish lira has lost several percentage points and the inflation nightmare has returned to the country.
The head-on collision between the two countries risks sowing more chaos within NATO and pushing Ankara towards a new partnership with Moscow and Beijing. China seems to be the only world power able to offer funding to Turkey “without preconditions”, even if at present it is difficult to hypothesize that it can replace Washington as an all-round partner. In terms of security, there could be a strengthening of relations with Moscow, with which strategic and diplomatic relations already a reality in the Syria for some time.
Ankara is also looking to the Middle East region for economic support. The Turkish embassy in Beirut sent a message of thanks for the campaign launched by the Lebanese people in support of Turkey “under economic attack” of the United States.
Meanwhile, the Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad al Thani flew to Turkey where he met Erdogan and signed a 15 billion dollar investment plan. A figure that will not solve the problems, but it is an important political signal to support Turkey.
Moreover, in the past, the two countries had strenghtened ties at varous levels in the region, openly siding against Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, Washington’s main allies in the Middle East.