February 4, 2020 / 4:16 PM / 13 days ago

Former Secretary of State Tillerson calls for Trump to reassure U.S. allies

Rex Tillerson, former chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil and former U.S. Secretary of State, leaves New York State Supreme Court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, U.S., October 30, 2019.  REUTERS/Jefferson Siegel

(Reuters) - Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made a call for greater U.S. political and economic involvement in the world, and said he hopes that President Donald Trump will send a message in Tuesday night’s State of the Union address that would reassure the country’s allies.

Tillerson, who spoke Tuesday morning in Houston at the Argus Americas Crude Summit, called the recent trade deal between China and the United States a “step in the right direction,” even though many key issues remain unresolved.

He also said that he told the White House before he left that the U.S. must engage with Russia on Venezuela.

The muted U.S. response to the mid-September attacks on the Abqaiq and the Khurais plants in Saudi Arabia, which caused damage that temporarily halved the crude output of the world’s top oil exporter, has opened the door for Russia in the region, Tillerson said.

“I just see great value in being connected with the entire world,” said Tillerson, who served as secretary of state from Feb. 1, 2017, through March 31, 2018. “Clearly there were people in the White House and the president himself that had a view that was not as broad as mine.”

Tillerson, the former chairman and chief executive of Exxon Mobil, also called climate change “complex,” adding that scientists should be able to research without fear of losing funding. “I think it’s vitally important that we not politicize the science,” Tillerson said.

Reporting by Jennifer Hiller; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Steve Orlofsky

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