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US lifts sanctions against Turkey; steel tariff stays at 25%

London — After threatening last week to increase the US tariff on imports of Turkish steel to 50%, President Donald Trump said Wednesday he had instructed the Department of the Treasury to lift all sanctions imposed on Turkey in light of a pause in the latter country's military operations in northeastern Syria -- but some saw the initial threat as hollow and of no major impact on Turkey-US steel trade flows.

An increase on the tariff on Turkish steel to 50% was announced by Trump at the beginning of last week via Twitter, but never officially implemented.

That threat -- of an increase in the tariff on steel from Turkey from the current 25% -- lacked any significant consequences because Turkish steel exports to the US have already seen a sizable decrease, according to a recent Panjiva Research report. Panjiva is part of S&P Global Market Intelligence which, like Platts, is a division of S&P Global Inc..

Overall, only 6.3% of Turkey's steel exports were shipped to the US in 2018, compared with 43.2% of exports to the EU, according to the Panjiva report. In addition, shipments from Turkey represented just 1.5% of total US steel imports.

Nonetheless, Trump previously raised Turkey's steel tariff rate to 50% from the wider Section 232 tariff level of 25% in August 2018 amid increased political tension between the countries due to the detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson. Turkey's tariff for steel was dropped back to 25% in May.

Turkish mills' offer prices remain uncompetitive in the US market, amid a decline in domestic American prices, even as Turkish steel mills face difficulties in exporting to US given the current 25% tariff.

Turkish mills are expected to try increase their exports to the US gradually in the coming months, some sources say, as relations between the two countries seem to be improving. Still, Turkish mills generally have found it hard to regain market share while the current 25% tariff remains in place, they say.

-- Annalisa Villa, annalisa.villa@spglobal.com

-- Cenk Can, newsdesk@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Keiron Greenhalgh, newsdesk@spglobal.com