President Trump is expected to nominate a Washington attorney, Christopher Landau, to be the next United States ambassador to Mexico, the White House said this week.
Trump’s planned appointment comes at a time of tense relations between the U.S. and Mexico and nearly one year after the resignation of the previous U.S. ambassador, Roberta Jacobson, who was one of several high-profile State Department officials to step down during the Trump presidency.
Landau, a 55-year-old graduate of Harvard Law School, is a constitutional and appellate attorney who has argued before the Supreme Court. Before entering private practice, he was a law clerk for conservative Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. He is currently a partner at the law firm of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan.
If Landau’s nomination is approved, he will be responsible for managing the increasingly fraught relationship between two longtime allies, which has been strained since Trump’s election by the president’s frequent criticism of Mexico on matters of immigration, trade and security and his persistent push to build a border wall between the two countries.
“The bilateral agenda is intensely complex at this point in time,” said Duncan Wood, director of the Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center, a Washington-based think tank.
One of the most pressing issues is the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement, a trade pact designed to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement. It has yet to be ratified by the three countries, in part because of recent tariffs imposed by the U.S. on steel and aluminum imported from Mexico and Canada. Another complicated subject is immigration, with the U.S. pressuring Mexico to do more to stop Central Americans from heading north and Mexico calling on the U.S. to take a more humanitarian approach to immigration enforcement.
Conflict over the political crisis in Venezuela may be on the horizon. While Trump has floated the idea of a military intervention into the South American country to oust President Nicolas Maduro, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has repeatedly affirmed his respect for Venezuela’s sovereignty.
“It’s very, very important that there is an ambassador right now,” said Wood.
Landau does not have diplomatic experience, although he studied Latin America while an undergraduate at Harvard College. He was born in Spain and spent part of his childhood in Latin America, according to the White House, which noted that he is fluent in Spanish.
He is the son of George Landau, a career U.S. diplomat who shaped policy in Latin America throughout the 1970s and 1980s and who served as U.S. ambassador to Chile, Paraguay and Venezuela.