WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said he doesn’t think he’ll have to impose tariffs on imported oil to blunt the impact of a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia, but held out the option to protect U.S. oil producers.
“I would use tariffs if I have to,” he said at a White House news conference on Sunday, restating his position from Saturday’s briefing. “I don’t think I’m going to have to.”
The U.S. has been in talks with Russia and Saudi Arabia about cutting excess production that’s cratered global oil prices, including calls between Trump and the leaders of both nations. But despite Trump’s assertion last week the two countries would cut production by 10 million to 15 million barrels, no agreement has been reached.
“We want to save a great industry,” Trump said of the U.S. oil industry. “If they don’t get along, I would do that, yeah, I would do tariffs, very substantial tariffs.”
OPEC+, the former alliance between the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and Russia, delayed a meeting aimed at ending the price war on Saturday after fresh tension between Riyadh and Moscow over who was to blame. The alliance will tentatively plan to meet virtually on April 9 instead of Monday. Brent futures dropped as much as 12% on Sunday.
The International Energy Agency said that the deepest production cuts in the oil industry’s history wouldn’t be able to steady oil markets, where demand has collapsed because of the coronavirus outbreak.
“It was the virus that killed it,” Trump said of the industry. He also noted again that low prices have benefits to the U.S. economy, a top oil consumer.
“I’m seeing 91 cents a gallon out on the road,” he said. “A lot of people are happy. I see very inexpensive jet fuel, we’re trying to save the airline industry.”