Donald Trump confirms Exxon Mobil chief as his Secretary of State

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan offers his congratulations following news of the appointment...

Donald Trump confirms Exxon Mobil chief as his Secretary of State

Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson. Picture by Alex Brandon AP/Press Association Images

US President-elect Donald Trump has officially selected Rex Tillerson, the chief executive of Exxon Mobil, to be his secretary of state.

He praised the 64-year-old Texan, who has been at the helm of one of the world's largest energy companies for the past decade, as an outstanding dealmaker with major international experience.

In a statement, Trump said:

"He will be a forceful and clear-eyed advocate for America’s vital national interests, and help reverse years of misguided foreign policies and actions that have weakened America’s security and standing in the world."

Tillerson has also enjoyed the backing of a number of key Republican figures, including former Secretary of States Condaleeza Rice and James Baker, as well as former Defense Secretary Robert gates, a transition official told Reuters.

The leading oil figure has faced criticism for his relationship with Vladimir Putin – the Russian President awarded Tillerson the Order of Friendship in 2013, citing his work "strenghtening cooperation in the energy sector". 

US Senator John McCain, who was the Republican candidate for the presidency in 2008, told Reuters:

"I have concerns. It's very well known that he has a very close relationship with Vladimir Putin."

While an official has said that Trump decided that Tillerson could adequately address questions about his relations with Russia, those ties will likely be publicly scrutinised once again. His appointment must now be confirmed by the US Senate.

The New York Times reported on Monday that Exxon Mobil stands to make major gains from the appointment, with deals worth billions of dollars dependent on the US lifting sanctions against Russia.

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan welcomed the nomination this afternoon, saying in a statement:

“I congratulate Rex Tillerson on his nomination as US Secretary of State by President-elect Trump and wish him well as he prepares to take up office. Once Mr Tillerson is confirmed by the US Senate, I look forward to having an early opportunity to meet him and to discuss matters of mutual interest between Ireland and the US.

“I greatly valued my working relationship with the current US Secretary of State, John Kerry who has been a great friend of Ireland over many years. As he approaches the end of his tenure, I wish to express my appreciation to Secretary Kerry for the very helpful role he has played in Ireland-US relations over recent years, not least in regard to Northern Ireland."