Trump signals possible tariffs on oil imports amid low prices

Updated: April 5, 2020

WASHINGTON -- US President Donald Trump said on Saturday he would impose tariffs on oil imports to protect the US energy sector if necessary, showing support for the industry battered by rock-bottom prices.

"If I have to do tariffs on oil coming from outside or something to protect tens of thousands of energy workers in our great companies that produce these jobs, I will do what I have to do," Trump said at a White House briefing.

Ryan Sitton, a commissioner of the Texas Railroad Commission, the state agency that regulates the oil and gas industry, was quoted by Axios as saying that he disagreed with imposing tariffs.

"My hope is that we don't get to that, my hope is that the market gets balanced through good leadership on behalf of major oil producers," said Sitton.

Oil consumption has dramatically decreased as more countries implement restrictive measures and shut down large swaths of the economy in order to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

That, coupled with a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, has sent oil prices into 18-year low earlier this week.

After meeting with executives from major oil companies on Friday, Trump said they discussed the concept of tariffs, but he was not considering imposing tariffs at the moment, adding that "it's certainly a tool in the toolbox."

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