Trump aide to be special energy envoy to Saudi Arabia

WASHINGTON • The Trump administration will appoint Ms Victoria Coates as special energy representative to Saudi Arabia as Washington struggles to deal with a global oil price crash dragging on the economy and threatening United States energy producers, an Energy Department official has said.

Ms Coates, who was one of President Donald Trump's longest-serving security aides, moved from the White House last month to become a senior adviser to Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette.

"Coates will be based in Saudi Arabia to ensure the Department of Energy has an added presence in the region," the official said on Monday. "While her assignment comes at a pivotal time for global oil markets, it has been in the works for a while."

Ms Coates' start date is unknown owing to the coronavirus outbreak.

Mr Trump, who is running for re-election in November, has said he wants to find a middle ground regarding the oil price crash.

Earlier this month, he said low oil prices were good for drivers. Last week, as anaemic oil prices threatened domestic drillers with bankruptcy, he said he would get involved in the price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia "at the appropriate time".

Oil prices have dropped by more than half in the past two weeks as Saudi Arabia and Russia launched a price war and the pandemic destroyed demand.

US crude oil edged higher in after-hours trading on Monday to nearly US$24 a barrel, after tumbling 29 per cent last week in its steepest slide since the outset of the US-Iraq Gulf War in 1991.

Ms Coates, who was Senator Ted Cruz's national security adviser for four years and foreign policy adviser to then Texas Governor Rick Perry, was at the Trump White House from its beginnings.

She was deputy national security adviser to Mr Trump, and specialised in the Middle East, particularly Iran.

Ms Coates will work in the kingdom for months at least, alongside State Department officials and energy attache Scott Hutchins. On Monday, Mr Brouillette said the Trump administration would soon make a diplomatic push on stabilising energy markets.

He told Bloomberg TV that a US-Saudi oil alliance was one of "many, many ideas" that had been discussed, but no decisions have been made on "anything of that nature". REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2020, with the headline 'Trump aide to be special energy envoy to Saudi Arabia'. Print Edition | Subscribe