Trump fo­cuses on trade in diplo­mat pick

Nom­i­na­tion of Exxon Mo­bil chief for State De­part­ment her­alds more ag­gres­sive eco­nomic poli­cies

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHANG YUNBI zhangyunbi@chi­

US pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump has cho­sen Exxon Mo­bil CEO Rex Tiller­son to be his sec­re­tary of state, a move that ob­servers said Trump sees as a way to se­cure smarter deals in eco­nomic diplo­macy, par­tic­u­larly in trade agree­ments.

The choice is a cru­cial one — Trump has made state­ments pro­vok­ing China — as the in­com­ing pres­i­dent clearly in­tends to steer United States for­eign pol­icy in a more con­ser­va­tive direc­tion.

The an­nounce­ment was made on Tues­day in New York, and fol­lows Trump’s state­ments in re­cent days on a num­ber of sen­si­tive top­ics, in­clud­ing the Tai­wan ques­tion and the South China Sea is­sue.

In a re­lease from his tran­si­tion head­quar­ters, Trump hailed Tiller­son, 64, as “among the most ac­com­plished busi­ness lead­ers and in­ter­na­tional deal mak­ers in the world”. Trump said Tiller­son rose through the ranks “through hard work, ded­i­ca­tion and smart deal mak- ing”, the Associated Press re­ported.

Tiller­son’s nom­i­na­tion is sub­ject to ap­proval by the US Se­nate.

Re­spond­ing ear­lier on Tues­day in Bei­jing to news of Tiller­son’s likely se­lec­tion, For­eign Min­istry spokesman Geng Shuang said it is hoped that the diplo­matic de­part­ments of both sides will boost com­mu­ni­ca­tion, strengthen co­op­er­a­tion and play an im­por­tant and con­struc­tive role for the de­vel­op­ment of their ties.

Ruan Zongze, vice-pres­i­dent of the China In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies, said the se­lec­tion mir­rors “Trump’s am­bi­tion to make some dif- fer­ence in eco­nomic diplo­macy” as he tweaks US strate­gies in bi­lat­eral and mul­ti­lat­eral trade pact ne­go­ti­a­tions.

In past years, one of the top items on the China-US eco­nomic agenda has been ne­go­ti­a­tions on the na­tions’ pro­posed bi­lat­eral in­vest­ment treaty.

Ruan said it is un­likely that the Trump team will con­tinue those talks — pushed by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion — in the short term, but Trump may later change his mind.

Yuan Zheng, a se­nior re­searcher on US for­eign pol­icy at the Chi­nese

Academy of So­cial Sciences, said that although he is pru­dently op­ti­mistic about over­all China-US ties, bi­lat­eral trade co­op­er­a­tion may be bumpy.

“There will be tougher bar­gain­ing when China and the US work on bi­lat­eral trade talks,” given Trump’s stated in­cli­na­tion to­ward trade pro­tec­tion­ism, he said.

Wash­ing­ton has com­plained that China still has a long list of ac­tiv­i­ties pro­hib­ited to US com­pa­nies in the Chi­nese mar­ket, Yuan noted. Trump could be ex­pected to try to pare that back, among other moves, in or­der to ful­fill his elec­tion pledges on boost­ing em­ploy­ment and bring­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing busi­nesses back to the US, Yuan said.

Given Tiller­son’s oil in­dus­try back­ground and his ex­pe­ri­ence in deal­ing with dozens of coun­tries around the globe, Ruan said fu­ture US eco­nomic diplo­macy may be lined up with the US na­tional strat­egy to boost in­de­pen­dence in the en­ergy field. US poli­cies on cli­mate change also may change, Ruan said.

Zhou Shi­jian, a se­nior trade ex­pert at Ts­inghua Uni­ver­sity, said Tiller­son may help ease strained US ties with Rus­sia through his close per­sonal re­la­tion­ship with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin. But con­tain­ing China can be ex­pected to re­main one of Wash­ing­ton’s top pri­or­i­ties, Zhou said.

Rex Tiller­son, Exxon Mo­bil CEO

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