Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that the country of 81 million people will boycott American consumer electronics, including Apple’s iPhone. The declaration comes as a trade war between the United States and Turkey has caused the Turkish currency, the lira, to plummet over the past few days, sending shockwaves throughout global markets.
During an impassioned speech in Ankara, Turkey’s capital today, Erdogan accused the United States of being “economic hitmen” who use the economy “as a weapon.” Erdogan stressed that any product made by the U.S. could be made even better in Turkey and that for the time being the country would pivot to using South Korea’s Samsung electronics.
Erdogan also said that the country could depend on Venus and Vestel, two of Turkey’s domestic smartphone brands. Turkey has an estimated 47 million smartphone users, though iOS penetration in the country is estimated to hover around just 16 per cent. Details of how a boycott of American electronics might be enforced were not presented during Erdogan’s speech.
The war of words between Turkey and the United States has escalated significantly in the past week as the U.S. calls for the release of an American evangelical pastor. Andrew Brunson is being held on terrorism charges which he denies. The Trump regime imposed financial sanctions on Friday against two Turkish government officials and doubled steel tariffs to 50 per cent and aluminium tariffs to 20 per cent in retaliation for the pastor’s detention.
White House National Security Adviser John Bolton met with Turkey’s ambassador to the U.S., Serdar Kilic, in Washington yesterday to discuss the potential release of Brunson. But neither side has backed down, with Erdogan invoking Turkey’s past of supporting the U.S. in times of need, including America’s war in Afghanistan. Erdogan accused the United States of conspiring against Turkey and said that the slide in its currency doesn’t make any sense logically.
Turkish government officials are concerned, but the country’s tourists have taken advantage of the plunging currency to snap up luxury goods at stores like Chanel and Louis Vuitton. Erdogan has encouraged his citizens to sell any American dollars they have to buy local currency, but the lira continues to slide. The lira is down roughly 40 per cent this year, dropping 10 per cent of its value on Monday alone.
Turkey will soon be “selling high tech and design products to the world,” Erdogan insisted during his speech. The Turkish leader has consolidated power after a failed coup attempt in the summer of 2016, not long before America’s presidential election. President Trump and Erdogan were on relatively good terms before this latest spat, as the American president has even congratulated the Turkish authoritarian for consolidating power.
In a rare joint show of force, the Trump White House and the U.S. State Department has been operating in sync, which wouldn’t be unusual during a normal presidency, but is exceptionally weird for the Trump regime. Strangely, the Trump regime has sometimes been at odds with the positions of its own State Department, most notably on issues like Russian election interference.
“The progress that we want to be made is to have Pastor Brunson return home, and I’ll leave it at that,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on August 9th.
“There is a price we’re paying for the period we’re in,” Erdogan said, referring to his country’s plummeting currency. “But there will be a price [which] those who’re waging an economic warfare against Turkey will also pay.” [Hurriyet Daily News and TRT World Livestream]