On Monday, October 14, 2019, President Trump announced that the U.S. will increase steel tariffs to 50% as a sanction against Turkey’s military advance into Syria last week. The steel tariffs were originally imposed at 25% under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 in March, 2018. In August, 2018, President Trump raised the duties on steel from Turkey to 50% because Turkish imports had continued to increase as the lira devalued against the dollar. The President reduced them back to 25% in May, 2019, after import levels from Turkey had decreased. The U.S. will also immediately end negotiations on a $100 billion trade deal that was underway. These actions demonstrate the Trump Administration’s continued willingness to use tariffs and trade deals as a means of obtaining leverage to change the behavior of its trading partners.
The President’s plan was developed after a meeting with administration officials including Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien. The increased steel tariffs will work in tandem with sanctions imposed by an Executive Order issued on Monday and enforced by the Secretary of the Treasury in consultation with the Secretary of State. Our sanctions analysis can be found here.
While the Trump Administration has taken heat on Capitol Hill for its liberal use of tariffs to achieve its policy goals, there is broad, bipartisan and international support for some form of action against Turkey. President Trump’s statement on Turkey notes he is “fully prepared to swiftly destroy Turkey’s economy if Turkish leaders continue down this dangerous and destructive path.” Others, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have voiced the opinion that stronger sanctions are appropriate now. Finland, France, Germany, and Sweden also announced on Monday that they will suspend arms exports to Turkey.
The impact and duration of the sanctions are as of yet unclear. Hours after President Trump’s announcement, Turkish President Erdoğan expanded the military operation amidst broad domestic support.
At this time, Turkish President Erdoğan is still expected to visit Washington, D.C. next month.