Erdogan Announces Boycott on U.S. Electronics as Lira Steadies

Turkey's national airline and its main telecoms firm are also halting advertising in U.S. media in response to the crisis in relations between the two allies, as U.S. pastor Brunson appeals to Turkish court

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech during a ceremony marking the second anniversary of the attempted coup, Ankara, Turkey, July 15, 2018.
\ Umit Bektas/ REUTERS

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday Turkey would boycott electronic products from the United States, which has imposed sanctions and raised tariffs against Ankara in a dispute about the detention of a U.S. evangelical pastor. In addition, Turkey's national airline and its main telecoms firm will halt advertising in U.S. media in response to the crisis in relations between the two allies, company officials said on Tuesday. 

Erdogan said Turkey has been taking necessary measures regarding the economy, amid a slide in the lira currency exacerbated by the dispute with Washington, but it was important to keep a firm political stance.

The lira has lost more than 40 percent this year and crashed to an all-time low of 7.24 to the dollar early on Monday, hit by worries over Erdogan's calls for lower interest rates and worsening ties with the United States. 

The weakness of the Turkish currency has rippled through global markets. Its drop of as much as 18 percent on Friday hit U.S. and European stocks as investors fretted about banks' exposure to Turkey. 

On Tuesday the lira recovered some ground, trading at 6.53 to the dollar, up around five percent on the day. 

It was supported by news of a planned conference call in which the finance minister will seek to reassure investors concerned by Erdogan's control of the economy and his resistance to interest rate hikes to tackle double-digit inflation. 

On Wednesday, flag carrier Turkish Airlines and Turk Telekom made their announcements regarding halting U.S. advertizing after a campaign on Twitter calling for an end to advertising in U.S. media outlets. 

An official at one of the companies said the advertising boycott would encompass all written, visual and social media, although existing advertising campaign agreements would not be affected. 

"We as Turkish Airlines are taking our place alongside our state and people," senior vice president for media relations Yahya Ustun wrote on Twitter with the hashtag #ABDyeReklamVerme, meaning "don't give advertisements to the USA". 

Hamdi Ates, corporate communications director at Turk Telekom, shared a similar message on Twitter. 

Erdogan says Turkey is the target of an economic war, and has made repeated calls for Turks to sell their dollars and euros to shore up the national currency. 

"Together with our people, we will stand decisively against the dollar, forex prices, inflation and interest rates. We will protect our economic independence by being tight-knit together," he told members of his AK Party in a speech. 

"We will impose a boycott on U.S. electronic products. If they have iPhones, there is Samsung on the other side, and we have our own Vestel here," he said, referring to the Turkish electronics company, whose shares rose five percent. 

Erdogan said his government would offer further incentives to companies planning to invest in Turkey and said firms should not be put off by economic uncertainty. 

"If we postpone our investments, if we convert our currency to foreign exchange because there's danger, then we will have given into the enemy," he said. 

Meanwhile, Pastor Andrew Brunson, who is standing trial in Turkey on terrorism charges, has appealed again to a Turkish court to release him from house arrest and lift his travel ban, his lawyer told Reuters on Tuesday. 

The appeal document seen by Reuters said the court should halt any unlawful political interventions and lift judicial control provisions imposed on Andrew Brunson.

The U.S. and Turkey have been at odds over a wide range of topics - from diverging interests in Syria, to Turkey’s ambition to buy Russian defense systems, and Brunson's case.

A Turkish delegation visited Washington for talks this week but left with no signs of a breakthrough.

After almost 20 months in a Turkish jail, Brunson was moved to house arrest in July by a court. Since then, U.S. President Donald Trump and his vice president Mike Pence have repeatedly called for his release while Ankara said the decision was up to the courts.

Washington in response sanctioned two Turkish ministers and Trump on Friday announced it was doubling the tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Turkey, saying relations with Ankara were “not good at this time.”

Following the imposing of sanctions, the Turkish lira sank to a record low of 7.24 to the dollar in early Asia Pacific trade Monday. Nevertheless, Erdogan said later that day he predicted the lira would return to "rational levels" soon, adding, however, that attacks on Turkey's economy were expected to continue.

Erdogan, who has described the lira's fall as the consequence of a plot rather than economic fundamentals, also said that spreading false news about the economy was treason and recent U.S. actions were a stab in the back against Ankara.