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13 Dec, 2016 11:16

Trump taps ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state

President-elect Donald Trump will nominate Rex Tillerson to be the 69th secretary of state. The ExxonMobil CEO will also serve as a member of the National Security Council.

A statement from Trump’s transition team on Tuesday says Tillerson, 64, is "a forceful and clear-eyed advocate for America’s vital national interests" and will “help reverse years of misguided foreign policies and actions that have weakened America's security and standing in the world.”

“Rex Tillerson’s career is the embodiment of the American dream. Through hard work, dedication and smart deal making, Rex rose through the ranks to become CEO of ExxonMobil, one of the world’s largest and most respected companies,” Trump said in the statement announcing the news.

Tillerson will replace the current Secretary of State John Kerry, who took over the role in February 2013. Agencies under its responsibility include the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the US Mission to the United Nations (USUN). The secretary of state is fourth in the presidential line of succession.

Tillerson was backed by former holders of the position Condoleeza Rice and James Baker, as well as former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, according to Reuters.

In 2011, Tillerson sealed a deal with Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft on behalf of ExxonMobil, giving Exxon access to the Russian Arctic and Rosneft a stake in the US company’s projects in North America.

READ MORE: State Department frontrunner is Exxon Mobil exec honored with Russian state award by Putin

Speaking at a press conference in Belgrade following the announcement, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said “We accept this as a decision by the president-elect of the United States and, as President Putin had underlined on numerous occasions we’re ready to work with any partners who are interested in developing comprehensive relations with Russia.”

Kremlin foreign policy aide Yury Ushakov described Tillerson as being “well known to the Russian representatives and was actively involved in business cooperation.”

“He is respectable and very professional,” added Ushakov. “Not only the Russian president, but Russian representatives have good business relationships with him.”

Following US-imposed economic sanctions on Russia over the crisis in Ukraine, the deal ended and Exxon was estimated to have incurred losses of $1 billion. He has advocated for ties between the two nations to be restored.

In 2013, Vladimir Putin presented the Texan with the Order of Friendship, one of the highest honors a foreigner may be awarded from Russia.

“To me a great advantage is that he knows many of the players in the world and he knows them well,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News Sunday. “He does massive deals in Russia not for himself, but for the company.”

READ MORE: Exxon has lost over $1 billion from Russian sanctions

Tillerson has acknowledged that humans have contributed to climate change but claims that the exact extent is unknown, rendering any proposed solutions useless. "The world is going to have to continue using fossil fuels, whether they like it or not," he said at a meeting of Exxon’s shareholders this year.

He has also shown support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement which Trump vehemently opposes. In a 2013 statement Tillerson called the TPP a “promising development” that would “open markets to growth and progress for every nation.”

Trump was rumored to be considering former CIA Director David Petraeus, former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani and former Governor of Massachusetts and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney for the role, before settling on Tillerson.

The Department of State was created in 1789 to “shape and sustain a peaceful, prosperous, just, and democratic world and foster conditions for stability and progress for the benefit of the American people and people everywhere.”