Monday, 24 April, 2017

Rex Tillerson: A businessman who turns diplomat

Rex Tillerson, chief executive officer of Exxon Mobile Corp., speaks at the 2012 CERAWEEK conference in Houston, Texas, U.S., on Friday, March 9, 2012.  Exxon Mobil Corp. is moving toward the conclusion of an agreement to drill in the Russian Arctic, Tillerson said. Photographer: F. Carter Smith/Bloomberg via Getty Images

By: Abdolreza Ghofrani

Lastly and after a couple of weeks of hunches and gossips, US president–elect Donald Trump picked his secretary of state. Thus the guesses and anticipations over his choice for this key post are now over.

Rex Tillerson, 64, a billionaire and CEO of giant Exxon Mobile Oil Company, if confirmed by Senate, will assume office as secretary of state in January 2016.

In the course of past couple of weeks there were rumors and reports of who would be the next secretary of state, a key post in US Administration. This time around however the unpredictable president –elect appointed a person pretty well known in economic and oil circles but not in diplomatic field.

Mr.Tillerson has never held a public office nor having any diplomatic back round. So how he will handle as the diplomatic chief of the United States remains to be seen and so any predictions and hunches are pretty difficult if not impossible.

By and large and given the existing facts, it is worthy to note that though Mr.Tillerson has no diplomatic experience nor held a public office, some of his characteristics need to be underscored.

First, he as an “oil man” has wide experiences in international oil business, so he is pretty aware of present political situations and issues of different regions of the world. This will probably be a good backdrop for him not having so many problems in diplomatic field. Though diplomacy and business are now closely linked, there are naturally differences between these two fields. In any case what matters so much either in diplomacy and business is the negotiation power and bargaining. These are two arenas that Tillerson has definitely so many experiences, which to some extent may help him to do his new job well.

Second, in addition to negotiation ability a business man need to have the power to make people convinced as well as being convinced himself. Moreover a business man, longing for benefits, naturally has to be flexible. Otherwise inflexibility in negotiations and bargaining will fail the whole commerce.

The same principle may, meticulously be true in diplomacy. There is, however, a difference in these two fields. In a business negotiation the two sides are either nature person or a corporate body; whereas in diplomacy the two sides are governments or a group of states or even international community as a whole. Certainly in this field, bargaining, making convinced, being convinced, tolerance and flexibility can be far more difficult and probably will be restrained. More over the diplomatic game has its own laws and principles the most significant of which is the observation and obeying carefully the international laws and commitments by foreign minister of any countries, even being super powers.

It sounds more time and patience is needed and it is too soon to judge and asses the new situation. Another issue that deserves attention is that a secretary of state in the US or a foreign minister in any other country cannot but work within a system and take into account the interests and viewpoints of others, and naturally this will limit the scope of his authority.

Certainly US secretary of state is not an exception to that and it is very important to know his extent of authority and freedom of action within American new administration.

By and large, at present it sounds realistic not to be either positive or negative as far as the appointment of Mr. Rex Tillerson is concerned. Because it is so important to what extent the US would-be Secretary of State will abide by the international and political commitments made by United States government.

If he really respects those commitments, then it is possible to be cautiously positive. In any case it is quite necessary to watch the performance of new secretary of state, if he is confirmed by the senate, and the approach he will take to play the diplomatic game. This will be known soon.

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