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Trump's Steel War on Turkey Dashes Hope of Export Revival

Thomas Biesheuvel

President Donald Trump’s latest broadside against Turkey deals a fresh blow to a steel industry already suffering.

Turkey’s steel industry was hit hard by the first round of tariffs, and the higher rates announced today will ramp up pressure even more. The U.S. plans to double tariffs on Turkish steel to 50 percent, and raise the rate on aluminum to 20 percent, Trump said on Twitter today.

Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump

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! Aluminum will now be 20% and Steel 50%. Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!

Sent via Twitter for iPhone.

View original tweet.

While other big steel producers like Canada and Mexico received exemptions to the earlier tariffs, Turkey didn’t, meaning it absorbed a bigger blow. The country’s steel exports to the U.S. fell by more than half in the first five months of the year. Turkey ranks as the world’s sixth-biggest steel producer.

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Steelmakers had hoped to make back ground after many of those exemptions were lifted, but that’s now looking like wishful thinking. An index of Turkish steel stocks plunged almost 10 percent after the announcement.

Turkey exported about 500,000 tons to the U.S. in the five months to May, compared with more than a million tons in the same period last year, according to data from the U.S. Census bureau. The U.S. has fallen from Turkey’s top steel buyer to number three.

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Turkey had increased shipments to European countries such as Italy and Spain. Trump’s move today will heighten fears that more steel exports will head to Europe, a concern the region has tried to tackle with so-called safeguard measures.

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