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Turkish steel CEO says US could reduce doubled Turkey tariffs this week

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Turkish steel CEO says US could reduce doubled Turkey tariffs this week

Tokyo — Turkey's Colakoglu Metalurji chief executive officer, Ugur Dalbeler, said Monday that he is hopeful the US' Trump administration will act within days to reduce recently-doubled tariffs on Turkish steel exports to the US.

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"I'm betting on this week," Dalbeler, who is the CEO of one of Turkey's largest steelmaker said. Dalbeler was speaking with S&P Global Platts on the sidelines of the World Steel Association's annual general assembly in Tokyo.

"That's what I'm hoping for, that the Trump administration abolishes the last decision of doubling the tariffs, so that ultimately would open the market again."

The source of Dalbeler's optimism was last week's decision by a Turkish court to release American pastor Andrew Brunson, who had been detained over alleged links to government opposition groups after a failed coup in 2016.

US President Donald Trump tweeted over the weekend that the pastor's release "will lead to good, perhaps great, relations between the United States and Turkey."

The US imposed 25% tariffs on all steel imports earlier this year as part of its Section 232 national security initiative, but then raised the tariffs on Turkey to 50% this summer.

"This singling out Turkey was quite political, and I hope since Trump had mentioned on Friday relations with Turkey are getting back to normal, it's getting better, I believe he might correct this issue, which to me was something wrong right from the very beginning," Dalbeler said.

"Otherwise, that wouldn't be fair because [the doubling of existing tariffs] was imposed because of this pastor issue. It was directly related to it, so it has to be corrected."

Dalbeler also questioned how Turkey could be considered a threat to the US national security when it has been a NATO member since the 1950s and "we fought with Americans in Korea, in Afghanistan and Somalia -- shoulder to shoulder -- and now we're considered to be a threat? It doesn't sound very reasonable."

Turkey's exports to the US have dropped by more than 50% in the first nine months of this year, Dalbeler said. "The US was one of the largest markets for Turkish rebar, today it's almost gone," he added.

The European Union and other countries, including Turkey, have begun to implement their own steel safeguards in the wake of the US tariffs.

From October 17, Turkey is set to impose an additional 25% duty on imports of some steel flats, longs, pipes, stainless products and railway equipment for 200 days, if pre-determined quotas for these products are exceeded.

The move was necessary as the US tariffs are "now having a domino effect and inspiring everybody else to do the same," Dalbeler said. "If everybody is closing their doors, what are you going to do? You can't just sit there and do nothing while everybody else is closing their doors," he added.

"Today, unfortunately, the trend is just focusing on protecting the domestic industry regardless of whether it's within the terms of the definitions of the WTO rules and regulations," Dalbeler said.

"We are going in a direction in which there will be no kind of fair and free trade left anymore. Everything's going to be local; everybody is going to play in its own backyard, so this is not healthy at all."

Still, he believes free trade will win out.

"Turkey, at the end of the day, is seventh-largest steel importer in the world. What we want, as everybody talks about, is fair and free trade," Dalbeler said.

"Steel is two-way traffic -- you sell and you buy, you import and you export -- that's applicable to every country in the world."

--Christopher Davis, chris.davis@spglobal.com

--Edited by Norazlina Juma'at, norazlina.jumaat@spglobal.com