US doubles tariffs amid Turkish currency crisis

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Berat Albayrak, Turkey's treasury and finance minister, adresses a conference in Istanbul on Aug. 10, 2018, as a financial shockwave ripped through Turkey, with its currency nosediving on concerns about its economic policies and a dispute with the US. (AP Photo/Mucahid Yapici)
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Traders and financial professionals work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) ahead of the closing bell on August 10, 2018 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down nearly 200 points on Friday, as markets reacted negatively to a sharp plunge in Turkish currency, the Lira, as Turkey heads toward a potential financial crisis. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP)
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A man counts his Turkish liras outside a currency exchange shop in an Istanbul's market on Aug. 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Mucahid Yapici)
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A man walks out of a currency exchange shop in an Istanbul's market on Aug. 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Mucahid Yapici)
Updated 11 August 2018
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US doubles tariffs amid Turkish currency crisis

  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan" “We will not lose the economic war” with the West. 
  • Expert says pastor's case intertwined with broader economic crisis in Turkey, which has been developing over many years

ANKARA: While Turkey endures one of the worst currency crises in its history, with the lira hitting record lows, US President Donald Trump on Friday announced a doubling of tariffs on imported steel and aluminum from Turkey. 
The announcement is the latest escalation in a diplomatic spat over the detention in Turkey of an American pastor, Andrew Brunson, on espionage and terror-related charges. Talks between Turkish and US authorities collapsed on Thursday. 
“I have just authorized a doubling of Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum with respect to Turkey as their currency, the Turkish lira, slides rapidly downward against our very strong Dollar!” Trump tweeted.
“Aluminum will now be 20% and Steel 50%. Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!” 
Turkey is the eighth-largest steel producer in the world and the sixth-largest steel exporter to the US. Turkish steel exports to the US stood at $1.1 billion last year.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told worshippers after Friday prayers that the country “will not lose the economic war” with the West. 
“They say things like foreign exchange rates. Get over it. We will keep growing despite attacks,” he added.
“No one can push the Turkish people… with fines, threats or sanctions. Solving this problem (over Brunson) is only possible through calm negotiations and diplomacy.” 
Turkish businesses that operate based on foreign currencies are expected to be hit hard by the weakening lira. 
The Istanbul Chamber of Industry urged the government on Friday to take “urgent” measures. 
Some experts say mismanagement of macroeconomic challenges, weak monetary policy, high inflation and expansionary fiscal policies are the biggest problems facing Turkey’s economy. 
Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, Ankara director of the German Marshall Fund of the US, said Trump’s tweet reaffirmed his administration’s determination to go to great lengths to free Brunson, in a way that will hurt Erdogan’s proud image.  “We have a rhetorical question in Turkey: ‘Do you want to eat grapes or do you want to beat up the winegrower?’ In this case, Trump doesn’t sound like it’s grapes he’s after,” Unluhisarcikli told Arab News. 
Some experts say to address its larger economic problems, Turkey may have to resort to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).  
Howard Eissenstat, a Turkey expert at St. Lawrence University and senior non-resident fellow at the Project on Middle East Democracy, said two issues have become intertwined.  
“The first is the crisis with the US, which has come to a head in the past few weeks. The second is the broader economic crisis in Turkey, which has been developing over many years,” he told Arab News. 
The spat with the US has clearly exacerbated the larger economic crisis, but resolving the former will not fix the latter, Eissenstat said.
“On the other hand, allowing the US crisis to spin out of control will clearly make the broader issues more acute,” he added.
“The US wants to keep Turkey as an ally, but at this point Turkey will have to take aggressive action to alleviate US concerns, which have been festering for a long time,” he said.
“It’s possible that Erdogan will do so; he has reversed himself in the past. But I don’t expect him to do so, at least in the short term,” Eissenstat added.
“This spat has become too public and too wrapped up with Erdogan’s deeply felt belief that the US is trying to undermine him.”


Pastor talks of breakdown in Turkey, but also of forgiveness

Trump was insistent on Brunson’s release without conditions. (AP)
Updated 21 October 2018
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Pastor talks of breakdown in Turkey, but also of forgiveness

  • Brunson was accused of links to Kurdish militants and a US-based Muslim cleric whom Turkey blames for a failed coup in 2016

VIRGINIA BEACH: The American pastor recently released after two years of confinement in Turkey said on Friday that he suffered a breakdown during his time in prison and was put on anti-anxiety medication.
Andrew Brunson said he was deprived of books — even a Bible — for long stretches of time. For eight months, he spent 24 hours a day with more than 20 men in a cell designed for eight.
But the worst of it, he said, was the uncertainty. The pastor who had led a small congregation faced the possibility of life in a Turkish prison if convicted on charges of terrorism and related counts, accusations he still calls “ridiculous.”
“I didn’t do very well,” Brunson said of living in the crowded prison cell. “It was very high stress, and I was sleeping three to four hours maximum a day. And I was really struggling a great deal. I didn’t know how long this would continue. I didn’t know why I was in prison.”
He added: “I really had a breakdown emotionally. And I received medication for anxiety because I was just a basket case.”
Sitting next to his wife, Norine, Brunson spoke inside the Virginia Beach headquarters of the Christian Broadcasting Network after an interview on “The 700 Club,” among other CBN shows. The network closely followed his ordeal, which became a cause celebre for evangelical Christians as well as President Donald Trump.
Earlier this month, Brunson was convicted in Turkey and sentenced to more than three years in prison. But he was freed and allowed to leave for the two years he had already spent in custody. For the past few months, he had been on house arrest.
Brunson was accused of links to Kurdish militants and a US-based Muslim cleric whom Turkey blames for a failed coup in 2016.
Upon his return, Brunson, 50, visited the White House and placed his hand on Trump’s shoulder in prayer before asking God to provide the president “supernatural wisdom to accomplish all the plans you have for this country and for him.”
Trump was insistent on Brunson’s release without conditions. And the president maintained there was no deal for Brunson’s freedom.
Brunson said on Friday that he was unaware of any deals. And he pointed out that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had previously suggested trading Brunson for Pennsylvania-based Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen, who is accused by Turkey of engineering a failed coup in 2016. The swap was never made.
The Brunsons, who spent 25 years in Turkey, said they still love the country but cannot return any time soon. They said they do not know what is next, but they view their ordeal as part of God’s plan.
“We haven’t done anything great,” Brunson said. “But for so many people in so many countries to be praying for us, this is something that God did. It was not just to bless me. He’s using that to bless Turkey.”
In the meantime, the couple is still recovering from the past two years, which included Norine Brunson’s arrest with her husband and the two weeks she spent with him in prison.
She was released and allowed to stay in the country while he was shipped around to various prisons. Their children, then ages 15, 18 and 21, were in the US and have remained there.
The Brunsons said they still do not know why the Turkish government made its accusations. Their missionary work was legal and out in the open for more than two decades.
But they said they were American Christians, who are viewed with suspicion in Turkey. And they were there after the failed coup.
Brunson said Turkish authorities never offered any proof to support the charges — no emails, no social media postings or recordings.
But people the Brunsons had known testified against him. It is something the pastor is still processing.
“It’s not an option not to forgive; we are required to as Christians,” Brunson said. “Is it easy? No. But God forgave me. As I get emotions that come back, I say, ‘I forgive.’”