Current CEO and chairman of ExxonMobil Corporation Rex Tillerson is President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State. Here are 5 facts you need to know about him.
1. Tillerson does not support placing sanctions on Russia.
The ExxonMobil CEO has a long history with Russia, dating back to the late 1990s. Tillerson first met Russian President Vladimir Putin in 1999 and ExxonMobil started a partnership with a government-owned Russian oil company, Rosneft. The purpose of this partnership was for exploration in the Black Sea and Arctic. Two years following the consummation of their partnership, the Russian president presented Tillerson with the Order of Friendship — one of the highest civilian honors one can receive in Russia.
In March of 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea, sanctions from both the European Union and the United States were put in place. The president of Rosneft was impacted by these sanctions. In May of that same year, Tillerson told reporters that the sanctions did not effect his company’s business in Russia, which turned out to be false because the company did feel the impact of the sanctions to the tune of $1 billion in losses.
“There has been no impact on any of our business activities in Russia to this point, nor has there been any discernible impact on the relationship. The organizations continue to work business as usual.”
The Exxon CEO also said that he thought sanctions were ineffective and that he opposed them.
Many in government have been critical of Tillerson’s stance:
Tillerson would sell out NATO for Sakhalin oil and his pal, Vlad. Should be a rough confirmation hearing, and a no vote on the Senate floor. https://t.co/cZmA3swddK
— Mark Salter (@MarkSalter55) December 9, 2016
Being a "friend of Vladimir" is not an attribute I am hoping for from a #SecretaryOfState – MR
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) December 11, 2016
2. Tillerson differs with Trump in that he supports free trade.
As Trump actively rallied against trade deals like NAFTA and TPP, Mr. Tillerson has openly supported free trade. This is only logical considering Exxon has operations on all six continents.
In a speech in 2009, Tillerson even went so far as to advocate for more free trade:
The need for international cooperation provides another opportunity for government to exercise a unique and positive role – by fostering free trade. We know from history that innovation and economic progress depend on the free flow of goods, services, capital and expertise across borders.
By enabling advanced economies and innovative companies to create partnerships, work across borders, and train local populations, government can support the most efficient use of resources and human capital. And as we confront our current economic challenges, Congress must resist the urge to turn its back on these proven policies. The United States cannot afford to raise barriers to trade.
History reminds us that governmental policies that limit free markets and free trade can lead to a prolonged stagnation and substantial job losses – especially during times of economic weakness and recession.
3. As President of Boy Scouts of America, Tillerson pushed for openly gay youths to be permitted to join.
Aside from his business career at Exxon, Rex Tillerson served as President of Boy Scouts of America from 2010-2012. In his time in this position, he convinced the Scouts to allow openly gay youths to join. However, it wasn’t until July of 2015 that the ban on gay troop leaders was lifted.
In a statement to USA Today, the Boy Scouts commented on Tillerson’s role.
“He was instrumental in leading the organization through an important period of growth and development, while upholding the long-standing traditions of character and good citizenship that are essential to Scouting’s mission.”
Although Tillerson may have expressed open support for gays in the Boy Scouts, Exxon did not change its Equal Employment Opportunity policy to include banning discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation until January of 2015.
4. Tillerson would enter the position of Secretary of State with absolutely no diplomatic experience.
The fact that Tillerson was being considered for Secretary of State was a shock to both Exxon executives and Tillerson, himself.
This is unsurprising considering the fact that he has absolutely no experience in government at any level. His entire career has been spent with Exxon and, although he has represented the company internationally, he has never had to represent a country in the same fashion.
This is unprecedented, as past Secretaries of State have always had prior government experience. For example, both Hillary Clinton and John Kerry served in the Senate before being named by President Obama as Secretary of State.
While little is known about Tillerson’s political positions outside of his support of free trade, he is described as being a “staunch conservative” and supported Jeb Bush in the beginning of the Republican presidential race.
5. Tillerson’s world view revolves mostly around the oil business.
In 2012 at a talk at the Council of Foreign Relations, Tillerson gave a peek into how he sees the world.
“You know, if you ask the average person on the street about U.S. energy, and U.S. oil, in particular, our situation, most Americans would say, oh, we’re energy poor; we don’t have enough oil, we don’t have enough natural gas… And that’s been the line for years and years. And yet the United States today remains the third-largest oil producer in the world, second only to Saudi Arabia and Russia, and a sizable gap between numbers four, five and six. We are an energy leader in oil production in the world. And if you look at the remaining resource base in the United States, adding in now what we know we can recover through these technology applications, we have sufficient resources to carry us well into the latter part of this century at current production rates.”