ISTANBUL / ANKARA

A US court ruling striking down US President Donald Trump’s high tariffs on steel imports from Turkey is being welcomed by Turkish exporters and experts alike.

In 2018 and 2019 the Trump administration raised tariffs up to 50% on steel imports from Turkey, causing major losses for Turkish steel exporters.

The US Court of International Trade last week ruled that the move was unlawful.

Turkish exporters hailed the ruling, adding that they would file a claim for compensation.

Ismail Gulle, head of the Turkish Exporters’ Assembly (TIM), said the court’s decision was belated but right.

Trump’s decision to double tariffs lacked any basis and hurt Turkish steel sector exports, he told Anadolu Agency.

While in 2018 – before the decision – “Turkish steel industry export to the US were $900 million, in 2019 they fell to $271 million, a 70% loss,” he said.

Turkey has a target of $100 billion in bilateral trade with the US, he said.

Test case

Adnan Aslan, head of the Turkish Steel Exporters Association, said Turkish steel exporters suffered due to Trump’s arbitrary decision.

“We will claim compensation for losses,” he said. “If the case goes for an appeal, we will file with the higher courts.”

In 2017, the US share of Turkey’s total steel exports was 15% but now is only around 3%.

“The US created a special quota for South Korea, Australia, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, and Canada, and doesn’t put tariffs on steel imports from these countries.”

He said the ruling will serve as a test case for similar issues, such as with the EU.

Arbitrary decision

“Trying to solve problem through legal avenues is a source of pride for Turkish steel producers,” said Bozkurt Aran, who heads the Trade Studies Center at the Turkish Economic Policy Research Institute (TEPAV).

“Trump’s decision in 2018 was an arbitrary decision. It raised taxes on steel imports from 25% to 50% without getting the opinion of the American steel industry,” he said.

In addition, Trump’s citing “national security” reasons for the hike makes no sense because the two countries are allies under NATO, he said.

But Sait Akman, a senior research fellow at TEPAV, cautioned that it is important how the US responds to the ruling.

The Trump administration may appeal the decision or might not even recognize it at all, he said.

“In this case, Turkey will go the World Trade Organization and activate the WTO dispute mechanism for resolution, but this is a long process.”

Hiked tariffs

In March 2018, Trump decided to slap an additional 25% tariff on steel imports to protect national security.

Turkey tried to discuss the move with the US but after this proved fruitless, it applied to the World Trade Organization.

That August, Trump doubled tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Turkey to 50% and 20%. Ankara retaliated by implementing equal tariffs on some imported products from the US.

In May 2019, the US cut tariffs on steel imports from Turkey to 25%.

Last week, the US Court of International Trade found Trump’s decision to double tariffs on Turkish steel unlawful, ruling that the president does not have the authority to modify Section 232 of the law.

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