In Russia's Footsteps? Turkey Dumps US Sovereign Debt as Political Rift Deepens

In Russia's Footsteps? Turkey Dumps US Sovereign Debt as Political Rift Deepens © REUTERS / Murad Sezer/Illustration

US Treasury reports previously showed that Russia had also drastically decreased its share in the US debt amid a deterioration of relations between the two countries and following a set of harsh sanctions imposed by Washington.

In June 2018, Turkey significantly decreased its portion of US sovereign debt, having reduced its portfolio from $32.6 billion to $28.8 billion, according to the US Treasury report.  The trend in reducing US debt owned by Ankara started in November 2017, when the country held $61.2 billion worth US debt.

The reduction in Turkey's possession of US sovereign debt is taking place amid a negative trend in bilateral relations between Ankara and Washington. This has been caused by among other things, the S-400 acquisition dispute, sanctions against Turkey's officials over American pastor Andrew Brunson and tariffs the US imposed on Turkish steel (50%) and aluminum (20%).

The Turkish lira's price took a nosedive at the news of the tariffs, having reached its 2001 level. The country's currency has lost a total of 40% of its value since the beginning of the year. Turkish President Erdogan has slammed the US move, calling it an "economic attack" on the country. Ankara has taken reciprocal steps by announcing a boycott against US-made electronic products and imposed tariffs against American vehicles, alcohol and tobacco.

Earlier the US Treasury reported that Russia had left the list of the biggest shareholders of  US sovereign debt, having dumped 84% or $81 billion worth US treasury notes between March and May 2018. However the drop stopped at $14.9 billion in May and Russia hasn't bought or sold US debt since then. The timing of the dump overlaps with Washington's imposition of severe sanctions against a Russian aluminum producer. Russia's Central Bank has explained the move is part of a plan to diversify holdings.

So far, the three biggest holders of US sovereign debt are China with $1.18 trillion, Japan with $1.03 trillion and Brazil with $300 trillion.