HOUSTON (Reuters) - Rex Tillerson, the former U.S. secretary of state and Exxon Mobil Corp chairman who has clashed with President Donald Trump since leaving the administration, said on Wednesday he supports the president’s trade objectives “but may not support the tactical moves.”
Speaking to a group of energy executives in Houston, Tillerson said he was concerned that pursuing bilateral trade talks around the globe could weaken Washington’s network of allies, which he called “that very strong alliance that’s been knitted together over the last 100 years.”
He also said he hopes that Chinese officials “don’t decide they can’t make an agreement with this administration and wait for the next one.”
Tillerson’s rare public remarks came before about 500 energy executives at KPMG’s Global Energy Conference.
He said global oil is in an “unprecedented period of supply stability and supply wealth” because of the success of U.S. shale, but that it faces price uncertainty on the demand side. He declined to make an oil price forecast or a prediction about the 2020 presidential election.
Tillerson served as secretary of state from Feb. 1, 2017, through March 31, 2018. He was replaced by then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
In December, Trump called Tillerson “dumb as a rock” and “lazy as hell” a day after the former diplomat said he had warned the president against doing things that would violate the law.
Trump fired Tillerson via Twitter last March after a series of public rifts over policy on North Korea, Russia and Iran. Relations between the two had been strained by reports that Tillerson had privately referred to Trump as a “moron.”
Tillerson said on Wednesday that when he was fired by Trump, “My chief of staff had to call and tell me because I don’t have Twitter.” He added that he is a “no-noise person” who still does not have a social media account.
Tillerson said he had no regrets about serving as secretary of state. “Don’t ever pass up the chance to serve your country, no matter who your boss is, because you are really serving the American people,” he said. “There is nothing more gratifying than that.”
Reporting by Jennifer Hiller in Houston; Editing by David Gregorio and Matthew Lewis