Politics

Trump halts trade negotiations with Turkey, raises its steel tariffs to 50%

Key Points
  • President Donald Trump signed an executive order sanctioning Turkish officials, hiking tariffs on Turkish steel up to 50% and "immediately" halting trade negotiations with the country, Vice President Mike Pence confirmed Monday.
  • Trump had announced the order in a lengthy statement posted to Twitter earlier Monday afternoon.
  • The retaliatory measures followed Trump's controversial move to order the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Syria's northern border.
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Pence: Trump told Erdogan he wanted immediate end to Turkish incursion into Syria

President Donald Trump signed an executive order sanctioning Turkish officials, hiking tariffs on Turkish steel up to 50% and "immediately" halting trade negotiations with the country, Vice President Mike Pence confirmed Monday.

Trump had announced the order in a lengthy statement posted to Twitter earlier Monday afternoon.

"This Order will enable the United States to impose powerful additional sanctions on those who may be involved in serious human rights abuses, obstructing a ceasefire, preventing displaced persons from returning home, forcibly repatriating refugees, or threatening the peace, security, or stability in Syria," Trump's statement read.

The retaliatory measures followed Trump's decision to order the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Syria's northern border with Turkey, which has enabled Turkish forces to launch an offensive against the U.S.-allied Kurdish forces in Syria.

Turkey and Kurdish groups have clashed for years, and Ankara recently signaled that it planned to carry out operations against the Kurds near Syria's northern border with Turkey. The White House announced Oct. 6, following a call between Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, that it would pull U.S. troops out of the area.

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Trump authorizes sanctions against Turkey

The abrupt foreign policy shift drew a rare wave of bipartisan criticism against the president, including from some of his most committed allies in Congress. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., for instance, publicly trashed Trump's move and announced plans to work with Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on a joint resolution to overturn the withdrawal.

Spokesmen for the Kurds have accused the U.S. of having "abandoned us to a Turkish massacre."

Trump took to social media to defend himself against the torrent of criticism. He pushed back on the more hawkish voices against him, writing Sunday: "Those that mistakenly got us into the Middle East Wars are still pushing to fight."

Shortly before announcing the sanctions and tariff hikes, Trump wrote in a thread of tweets that "Anyone who wants to assist Syria in protecting the Kurds is good with me, whether it is Russia, China, or Napoleon Bonaparte."

"I hope they all do great," Trump said of whoever might come to help the Kurds, a stateless ethnic group that was integral to helping the U.S. defeat the ISIS caliphate in the Middle East. "We are 7,000 miles away!"

In May, the U.S. halved tariffs on Turkish steel imports to 25%, even as it ripped up an existing preferential trade status with the country. The import duties on Turkish steel and aluminum had originally been jacked up amid Trump's campaign to pressure Turkey to release Pastor Andrew Brunson, an American who had been detained there on terrorism charges that he denied. Brunson was released last year.

"I have been perfectly clear with President Erdogan: Turkey's action is precipitating a humanitarian crisis and setting conditions for possible war crimes," Trump said in the statement Monday.

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Kurds in Syria strike protection deal with Bashar al Assad

"Turkey must ensure the safety of civilians, including religious and ethnic minorities, and is now, or may be in the future, responsible for the ongoing detention of ISIS terrorists in the region. Unfortunately, Turkey does not appear to be mitigating the humanitarian effects of its invasion," the president said.

"The United States will aggressively use economic sanctions to target those who enable, facilitate, and finance these heinous acts in Syria," Trump's statement said. "I am fully prepared to swiftly destroy Turkey's economy if Turkish leaders continue down this dangerous and destructive path."

Read Trump's full statement below:

Statement from President Donald J. Trump Regarding Turkey's Actions in Northeast Syria

I will soon be issuing an Executive Order authorizing the imposition of sanctions against current and former officials of the Government of Turkey and any persons contributing to Turkey's destabilizing actions in northeast Syria. Likewise, the steel tariffs will be increased back up to 50 percent, the level prior to reduction in May. The United States will also immediately stop negotiations, being led by the Department of Commerce, with respect to a $100 billion trade deal with Turkey.

This Order will enable the United States to impose powerful additional sanctions on those who may be involved in serious human rights abuses, obstructing a ceasefire, preventing displaced persons from returning home, forcibly repatriating refugees, or threatening the peace, security, or stability in Syria. The Order will authorize a broad range of consequences, including financial sanctions, the blocking of property, and barring entry into the United States.

Since my first day in office, the Trump Administration has worked tirelessly to preserve the safety and security of the United States and its citizens. The United States and our partners have liberated 100 percent of ISIS's ruthless territorial caliphate. Turkey must not put these gains in jeopardy. Turkey must also prioritize the protection of civilians, particularly vulnerable ethnic and religious minorities in northeast Syria. Indiscriminate targeting of civilians, destruction of civilian infrastructure, and targeting of ethnic or religious minorities is unacceptable. Additionally, the return of refugees must be conducted in a safe, voluntary, and dignified manner.

Turkey's military offensive is endangering civilians, and threatening peace, security, and stability in the region. I have been perfectly clear with President Erdogan: Turkey's action is precipitating a humanitarian crisis and setting conditions for possible war crimes. Turkey must ensure the safety of civilians, including religious and ethnic minorities, and is now, or may be in the future, responsible for the ongoing detention of ISIS terrorists in the region. Unfortunately, Turkey does not appear to be mitigating the humanitarian effects of its invasion.

As I have said, I am withdrawing the remaining United States service members from northeast Syria. As United States forces have defeated the ISIS physical caliphate, United States troops coming out of Syria will now redeploy and remain in the region to monitor the situation and prevent a repeat of 2014, when the neglected threat of ISIS raged across Syria and Iraq. A small footprint of United States forces will remain at At Tanf Garrison in southern Syria to continue to disrupt remnants of ISIS.

The United States will aggressively use economic sanctions to target those who enable, facilitate, and finance these heinous acts in Syria. I am fully prepared to swiftly destroy Turkey's economy if Turkish leaders continue down this dangerous and destructive path.

VIDEO3:3103:31
Pence: Trump told Erdogan he wanted immediate end to Turkish incursion into Syria