Lapid praises Trump as US president announces fresh tariffs on Turkey

Yesh Atid chief hails American leader's 'decisive action against Erdogan,' says it 'would not hurt' for Netanyahu to follow suit

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid heads a party faction meeting at the Knesset on July 16, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid applauded US President Donald Trump’s decision Friday to impose tariffs on Turkey, further pressuring that country’s troubled economy amid a diplomatic row with Washington.

“I praise President Trump for his decisive action against [President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan and Turkey,” Lapid wrote on Twitter.

Lapid said it “would not hurt the Netanyahu government” to also take action against Turkey, presumably due to Erdogan’s increasingly venomous statements against the Jewish state.

The Yesh Atid MK has previously implored Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to adopt a tougher stance toward Turkey and slammed as a “diplomatic mistake” the 2016 reconciliation deal between the countries. The agreement had restored ties heavily strained by the deadly 2010 raid on a Turkish ship trying to breach the blockade on the Gaza Strip. Israel maintains the blockade is necessary to prevent weapons reaching terror groups such as Hamas, which rules Gaza.

Erdogan is much maligned in Israel for his backing of Hamas and fiery comments criticizing Israeli responses to violence on the Gaza border.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks at a pro-Palestinian rally in Istanbul on May 18, 2018. (AFP Photo/Ozan Kose)

Lapid’s praise for Trump came after the US president announced the doubling of steel and aluminum tariffs on Turkey.

“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 wrote on Twitter. “Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!”

Trump’s announcement came as Turkey’s embattled lira hit new record lows against the US dollar and euro, losing nearly nine percent in value as strains with the United States showed no sign of abating and fears grew over the exposure of European banks.

However, the White House later clarified that Trump’s announcement “authorized the preparation of documents” to raise the tariffs. That means it likely will take some time to implement.

Washington imposed the metals tariffs on national security grounds, claiming the glut of steel and aluminum harmed US companies and the economy. It is unclear how that would justify higher tariffs on Turkey but not other countries.

Economist Chad Bown, who specializes in trade issues, said Turkey accounted for just over four percent of US steel imports in 2017, but a very small fraction of the aluminum brought into the country.

Turkey remains at loggerheads with the United States in one of the worst spats between the two NATO allies in years over the detention for the last two years of American pastor Andrew Brunson and a host of other issues.

Washington this month imposed sanctions on senior Turkish officials, angering Erdogan and prompting retaliatory measures by Ankara.

In this file photo taken on July 11, 2018, US President Donald Trump (L) speaks with Turkey’’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) as they arrive for a NATO summit at NATO headquarters in Brussels. (AFP Photo/Pool/Tatyana Zenkovich)

Meanwhile, markets are deeply concerned over the direction of economic policy under Erdogan, with inflation at nearly 16% but the central bank reluctant to raise rates in response.

Erdogan on Friday called on Turks to support their struggling currency.

“We will not lose the economic war,” state-run TRT Haber television quoted Erdogan as saying.

“If you have dollars, euros or gold under your pillow, go to banks to exchange them for Turkish lira. It is a national fight.”

Harsher US tariffs were likely to punish Turkey’s already faltering steel exports to the United States.

In the first three months of 2018, Turkish steel exports to the United States fell nearly 50% over the same period in 2017, making it the only top-10 source of US steel imports to see a decrease, according to the US Commerce Department.

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