Tillerson as secretary of State will revive business-government ties, RCH Energy's Rob Raymond says
Donald Trump picking Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson to be his secretary of State is a sign that the incoming administration, especially the State Department, is open to the idea of businesses being involved in policymaking to a degree, RCH Energy founder Rob Raymond said Tuesday.
"I would argue that over the last eight or 10 years, the State Department has lost sight of the relevance of the business community as it relates to setting policy globally," Raymond told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street."
"I think what President-elect Trump is trying to accomplish here is to reinstate a relationship between the business community and the State Department," he said.
Raymond, the son of former Exxon Mobil chief Lee Raymond, said Tillerson's foreign business connections could also help the United States repair some of its ties abroad.
"Our foreign policy in the Middle East probably has left a lot to be desired, and so given some of his relationships and some of the rebuilding of relationships in the Middle East ... he's probably helpful in some of those aspects as well," Rob Raymond said.
But much of the concern surrounding the choice of the oil executive stems from those very relationships, as well as his business interests, which could conflict with his priorities when he becomes secretary of State, former White House ethics lawyer Richard Painter told CNBC.
"He's certainly a man of high intelligence and valuable experience, but we need to make sure that he's going to do the work of the State Department in an unbiased manner," Painter told "Squawk on the Street" in a separate interview Tuesday.
Painter, who was an ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush, said Tillerson's ties to the oil industry would directly conflict with commitments the U.S. made at the COP21 summit in Paris in 2015 to fight climate change.
"He cannot be beholden to the oil industry in this job. He needs to sell the stock and distance himself from his former colleagues at Exxon Mobil and others in the oil industry and be an effective secretary of State," Painter said, insisting that climate change required multilateral, multinational cooperation.
"I think he can do it, but he's going to have an uphill battle if he is at all tied in the oil industry in this job. That just simply won't work," Painter contended.
Appearing in the interview with Painter, David Goldwyn, the State Department's top energy diplomat under President Barack Obama, said that Tillerson could actually provide another voice in an administration that is largely averse to the idea of climate change.
Goldwyn cited Tillerson's comparably softer position on the matter, noting that the Exxon CEO has backed a carbon tax.
"If there is a chance of having a rational voice at the table on Paris, on climate, on investing in innovation and keeping the United States at the front of ... clean energy technology innovation and not taking us out of the conversation, I think we have a good chance that Mr. Tillerson would be a rational voice in that conversation," Goldwyn told CNBC.
Tillerson's office and Trump's transition team did not immediately respond to CNBC's requests for comment.