Thu | Aug 16, 2018

President accuses US of waging 'economic war' against his country

Published:Sunday | August 12, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters in Ordu, Turkey, yesterday.

ISTANBUL (AP):

Turkey's president yesterday blamed the country's economic downturn on the United States and other nations that he claims are waging "war" against his country.

Speaking in the northeastern province of Rize, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that dollars, euros and gold were now "the bullets, cannonballs and missiles of the economic war being waged against our country".

Erdogan promised supporters that Turkey was taking the necessary precautions to protect its economy but added, "The most important thing is breaking the hands firing these weapons."

Turkey was hit by a financial shock wave last week as its currency nosedived over concerns about the government's economic policies and a trade dispute with the United States.

The lira tumbled 14 per cent last Friday to 6.51 per dollar, a massive move for a currency that will make Turkish residents poorer and further erode international investors' confidence in the country.

The currency drop is particularly painful for Turkey because it finances a lot of its economic growth with foreign money.

The currency's drop - 41 per cent so far this year - is a gauge of fear over a country coming to terms with years of high debt, international concern over Erdogan's push to amass power, and a souring in relations with allies like the US.

In an opinion piece published in The New York Times on Friday, Erdogan criticised the tensions with the US, saying a "failure to reverse this trend of unilateralism and disrespect will require us to start looking for new friends and allies".

Among the issues, Turkey has arrested an American pastor and put him on trial for espionage and terror-related charges linked to a failed coup attempt in the country two years ago. The pastor has proclaimed his innocence.

The US responded by slapping sanctions on Turkey and threatening more. The sides held talks in Washington last week but failed to resolve the spat.

President Donald Trump last Friday tweeted that he had authorised the doubling of steel and aluminium tariffs on Turkey.

He said the tariffs on aluminium imports would be increased to 20 per cent and those on steel to 50 per cent as the Turkish lira "slides rapidly downward against our very strong Dollar".

The United States is the biggest destination for Turkish steel exports, with 11 per cent of the Turkish export volume. The lira fell further after Trump's tweet.