“I do not oppose TPP,” he said. “I share some of (Trump’s) views regarding whether the agreement that was negotiated serves all of America’s interests best,” he added during his lengthy confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But he did not mention TPP in his opening statement.
His opening statement did mention Russia and China, however.
What is also not clear is the extent to which Mr. Tillerson’s tough stance on the South China Sea springs from his extensive experience in the region during his time as chief executive of ExxonMobil, when his company became embroiled in bitter territorial disputes over the extensive oil and gas reserves beneath the seafloor.
During his tenure, the company forged close ties to the Vietnamese government, signing an agreement in 2009 with a state-owned firm to drill for oil and gas in two areas in the South China Sea. The agreement with PetroVietnam was signed quietly, according to a leaked United States diplomatic cable, because it conflicted with Chinese territorial claims.
While ExxonMobil has some operations in China, including a stake in a petrochemical plant in the country’s south, it has a very small presence in the country’s huge retail market for gasoline, which is dominated by state-owned Chinese companies. In contrast, its agreements with Vietnam are potentially huge, given that the South China Sea may contain 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to the United States Energy Information Administration.
Rex Tillerson’s South China Sea Remarks Foreshadow Possible Foreign Policy Crisis, NYTimes, Jan 11, 2017