Trump could impose 'very substantial' tariffs on oil imports, but doesn't think he'll need to do so

Key Points
  • "I would use tariffs, if I had to. I don't think I'm going to have to," Trump said at a White House briefing. 
  • Trump said he thought Saudi Arabia and Russia would ultimately agree on production levels because low prices are "obviously very bad for them." 
President Donald Trump speaks during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, in the Brady Briefing Room at the White House on April 1, 2020, in Washington, DC.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

President Donald Trump on Sunday reiterated his threat to target foreign oil as global producer infighting continues to impact the price of crude, saying he could impose 'very substantial tariffs' to protect the American energy industry but doesn't think he will need to do so. 

"I would use tariffs, if I had to. I don't think I'm going to have to," Trump said at a White House briefing on the coronavirus. Trump on Saturday also signaled a willingness to implement tariffs on foreign oil.

The president said he thought there would ultimately be an agreement on production levels between Saudi Arabia and Russia.

Along with a sharp reduction in demand from the coronavirus pandemic, disagreements on production cuts between Saudi Arabia and Russia that began in early March has caused the price of crude oil to fall dramatically

"It's obviously very bad for them," Trump said of low oil prices. 

Trump's comments Sunday came as oil prices fell after a scheduled virtual meeting between OPEC and its allies was delayed. The meeting had been set for Monday but will "likely" be held Thursday, CNBC reported Saturday

Oil prices surged last week as Saudi Arabia called for the meeting. 

Last week, Trump told CNBC's Joe Kernen in a phone conversation that he was anticipating a production cut of up to 15 million barrels to be announced by the leaders of Russia and Saudi Arabia. 

Declining oil prices have made it unprofitable for many U.S. firms to remain active, analysts have said.

Trump also met with U.S. energy executives at the White House on Friday. 

"If I did the tariffs, we essentially would be saying we don't want foreign oil. ... We're just going to use our oil and that would help to save an industry," Trump said Sunday.