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Trump Says Russia, Saudi Arabia 'Destroying' Themselves; Will Impose Oil Import Tariffs If Necessary

Saudi Energy Minister Abdulaziz Bin Salman and Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak attend an energy forum in Moscow in October 2019.

WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Donald Trump said Russia and Saudi Arabia are "destroying" themselves with an oil price war, adding he will impose tariffs on their imports if necessary to protect the U.S. oil industry.

Trump said April 4 during a press conference that the economies of Russia and Saudi Arabia are highly dependent on oil and "it is to their advantage" to find an agreement on an oil production cut.

His comments follow reports a day earlier that a meeting of OPEC+, the oil alliance led by Saudi Arabia and Russia, to discuss cuts will not be held on April 6 amid a continued dispute between Moscow and Riyadh.

During a meeting of OPEC+ on March 6, Russia refused to agree to a Saudi proposal for deeper production cuts. Riyadh, angered by Moscow's decision, announced it would ramp up production, sparking a price war that has sent Brent crude to as low as $20, a near two-decade low.

Trump, who has been seeking to broker an agreement between the two nations, said on April 2 in a tweet that Russia and Saudi Arabia had agreed to a cut of 10 million barrels of oil a day, causing the price of crude to surge as much as 30 percent. Trump was understood to be referring to cuts by the 23-member OPEC+ alliance that the two countries lead.

Saudi Arabia announced minutes later that it was calling an extraordinary meeting of OPEC+ members for April 6, which is now under doubt.

The U.S. president also said April 4 the low oil price environment is hurting the U.S. oil industry, which has surpassed Saudi Arabia and Russia to become the largest in the world by daily production.

Trump, who met with energy executives at the White House the day before, said the crisis is going "to hurt a lot of [American] jobs" but that he will take actions to protect it, including imposing tariffs on oil imports.

Russia and Saudi Arabia are among the largest exporters of oil to the United States.

"I will do whatever I have to do" to protect the U.S. oil industry, Trump said.

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    Todd Prince

    Todd Prince is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL based in Washington, D.C. He lived in Russia from 1999 to 2016, working as a reporter for Bloomberg News and an investment adviser for Merrill Lynch. He has traveled extensively around Russia, Ukraine, and Central Asia.