Foreign Policy

Trump Recklessly Wields Tariffs in a Diplomatic Dispute

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

Turkey was among the nations hit by Trump's tariffs on steel and aluminum which he imposed for dubious "national security" reasons, but Trump is now increasing those tariffs for reasons have little to do with economics or national security.

Trump announced this morning that he would place tariffs as high as 50 percent on imports from Turkey in response to a diplomatic dispute over a detained pastor.

The new duties on Turkey are double the level that Trump imposed in March on steel and aluminum imports from a range of countries. The White House said he had authorized them under Section 232 of U.S. trade law, which allows for tariffs on national security grounds.

While Turkey and the United States are at odds over a host of issues, the most pressing disagreement has been over the detention of U.S. citizens in Turkey, notably Christian pastor Andrew Brunson who is on trial on terrorism charges. Turkish officials held talks in Washington this week but there was no breakthrough.

Government officials should do everything they can to secure the release of American citizens if they're truly innocent, but is this really going to help? Couldn't this simply prompt President Tayyip Erdogan to double down? Wouldn't it be better to let the State Department do what it's suppose to do?

Using tariffs in this manner -- tariffs that were imposed on dubious grounds to begin with -- seems like an extremely slippery slope. This slope is covered in lubricant. If Trump gets it in his head that he can impose tariffs anytime he wants to intimidate another nation in a diplomatic dispute, we'll never see the end of his tariffs and we'll see more retaliation.

A responsible Congress would immediately hold hearings on Trump's use of 60-year-old Cold War-era trade law to intentionally weaken another member of NATO, but we don't have a responsible Congress.

With all of that said, I doubt Trump would go to these lengths if Turkey had detained an American Muslim rather than an American Christian.

  • muselet

    Josh Marshall:

    It is quite clear that the only reason Brunson has become the central issue in US-Turkish relations is because he is an evangelical pastor and he’s become a top issue for US evangelicals who are the core of Trump’s power base. What is important to them is non-negotiable for him. Full stop. So here we have the US President wreaking havoc with the Turkish economy and putting the bilateral relationship into crisis as a payoff to his evangelical supporters. That is simply terrible.

    Terrible is the Trump administration’s default position.


  • Nefercat

    Yabbut Hillary “over-prepared” for the job, so boy howdy, we sure dodged a bullet, didn’t we?

  • Scopedog

    But remember when folks claimed that Hillary would be soooo bad when in regards to foreign affairs while Trump wouldn’t be that bad because something something no interventionalist mindset or some other idiotic shit?

    • Draxiar

      No interventionist mindset…even in regards to Russia assaulting our elections.