(Adds background; additional White House comments)
WASHINGTON, Aug 15 (Reuters) - The White House on Wednesday condemned Turkey’s doubling of tariffs on U.S. cars, alcohol and tobacco imports, calling the action “a step in the wrong direction.”
Turkey took the action in response to what it called the Trump’s administration’s attack on its economy. The United States doubled tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum last week, which contributed to a tumble in the Turkish lira.
“The tariffs from Turkey are certainly regrettable and a step in the wrong direction. The tariffs that the United States placed on Turkey were out of national security interest. Theirs are out of retaliation,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters.
Tensions between the two NATO allies have been strained amid Turkey’s detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson. Turkey has accused Brunson of backing a coup attempt against Erdogan two years ago.
In addition to its decision to ramp up tariffs on imports of Turkish steel and aluminum, the Trump administration earlier this month imposed sanctions on two top officials in Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s Cabinet as part of its efforts to pressure Turkey into freeing Brunson.
Sanders said Brunson’s release would not lead to an easing in the tariffs, but that it could lead to an easing in sanctions.
“The tariffs that are in place on steel will not be removed with the release of pastor Brunson. The tariffs are specific to national security,” she said.
“The sanctions, however, that have been placed on Turkey are specific to pastor Brunson and others that we feel are being held unfairly, and we would consider that at that point,” Sanders added. (Reporting by Jeff Mason; Writing by Makini Brice and Tim Ahmann; Editing by James Dalgleish and Jonathan Oatis)