Turkish president Erdogan rails against USA tariffs in media offensive

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Turkey's president on Saturday blamed the country's economic downturn on the United States and other nations that he claims are waging "war" against his country.

"It is wrong to dare bring Turkey to its knees through threats over a pastor", Erdogan told a rally in the Black Sea town of Unye.

Brunson is now on trial in Turkey for espionage and terror-related charges linked to a failed coup attempt in the country two years ago. "Immediately give these to the banks and convert to Turkish lira and by doing this, we fight this war of independence".

Turkish aluminum will now be taxed at 50% and steel at 20%, essentially pricing Turkish metals out of the US markets. According to figures from the Turkish Government, for the period of 2002 to October 2017, Turkish direct investments in the United States reached $3.7 billion while USA investments in Turkey amounted to $11.1 billion, second only to the Netherlands' 21.6 billion. "During this period, Turkey has set records in its exports, production and employment", Erdogan said.

Without naming countries, Mr Erdogan said supporters of a failed military coup two years ago, which Ankara said was organised by a US-based Muslim cleric, were attacking Turkey in new ways since his re-election two months ago.

"Interest rates should be kept to a minimum because they are a tool of exploitation that makes the poor poorer and the rich richer", he said.

In a tit-for-tat response to the USA sanctions, Erdogan responded by announcing that the assets in Turkey of the U.S. secretaries of "justice and interior" would be frozen.

Prior to Trump's announcement, the Turkish lira fell to its lowest point ever against the US dollar on Friday.

He also said it was wrong of the United States to try to bring Turkey into line with threats, a day after Trump doubled tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from Turkey. "You are exchanging your strategic partner in North Atlantic Treaty Organisation for a priest".

Turkish officials insist the outcome of Brunson's case exclusively relies on the judiciary, a claim the USA has refused to buy in the light of Erdogan's earlier suggestions to swap him with Turkish opposition exiles residing in the US.

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Pastor said it was definitely not an act of terror: " Most terrorists don't do loops over the water". It's going to disappoint them to hear that I did this. "I hope they can make it through this".

"If they have the dollar, we have Allah", he said.

Shares in France's BNP Paribas, Italy's UniCredit and Spain's BBVA, the banks seen as most exposed to Turkey, fell 4 per cent or more.

"The US runs the risk of losing Turkey as a whole", he wrote.

Turkey's currency has nosedived amid concerns about the country's economic policies and its dispute with the US. On Friday, The New York Times published an article by Erdogan himself.

The new tariffs announced on Friday come as the USA increases pressure for the release of American pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been in Turkish custody since 2016 on charges of espionage.

The Turkish lira lost over 11% at one point during the day, and that has people worrying about outstanding debts in Turkey for already beleaguered and embattled European banks.

President Trump said he would double steel and aluminum tariffs on Turkey, deepening tensions over the country's refusal to free an American pastor.

Turkey's woes have been aggravated by investor worries about the economic policies of Erdogan, who won a new term in office in June with sweeping new powers.

On Friday Turkey made it clear Erdogan had spoken on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin after the latest USA tariffs, with the two men "expressing pleasure" that relations were progressing "positively".

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