New US Ambassador arrives in Mexico with ‘hand extended’

MEXICO CITY (AP) — New U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Christopher Landau arrived in Mexico City on Friday to take up one of Washington’s most important diplomatic posts, which had been vacant for over a year, amid a tricky time for relations between the North American neighbors.

Landau replaces Roberta Jacobson, the first woman to be the United States’ envoy to Mexico, who resigned and retired in May 2018.

“I arrive with my hand extended. The United States wins when there is a prosperous and stable Mexico, and Mexico wins when there is a prosperous and stable United States,” Landau said in brief remarks to journalists upon arriving at Mexico City’s airport in the morning. He did not take questions.

The United States and Mexico have deep cultural, familial and economic ties. The United States buys about 80% of Mexican exports, some $358 billion last year, and in the first quarter of this year Mexico was the United States’ No. 1 commercial partner for the first time, ahead of Canada and China.

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But Landau’s arrival comes after months of tensions over immigration and trade.

Mexico has cracked down a wave of mostly Central American migrants and asylum seekers moving through its territory after U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to slap tariffs on imports from its southern neighbor. The number of migrants encountered by U.S. authorities in July dropped below 100,000 for the first time in five months, according to U.S. government data released last week.

A September deadline looms when the two countries are to evaluate progress on the issue.

The governments are also hoping for ratification of a trade deal with Canada that replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement. Mexico’s Senate approved the agreement known as the USMCA in June, but U.S. lawmakers have yet to do so.

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“Obviously there are challenges in the bilateral relationship, but they are the challenges … of any relationship that is so close,” Landau said.

“Our countries are partners, neighbors and friends,” he added. “It is that way today, and always will be.”

Antonio Garza, who was U.S. ambassador to Mexico from 2002 to 2009, said Landau will be tasked with working with Mexico on the same issues that are perennially core to the relationship: trade, immigration and security.

“I think to various degrees at different times there’s more urgency attached to each of those,” Garza said. “With that said, I don’t think that there has ever been a more critical time in terms of urgency as relates to trade, immigration and security.”

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Landau is a Harvard-educated lawyer who has argued nine cases before the Supreme Court and who clerked for Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas in the early 1990s, according to a bio provided by the U.S. Embassy.

While he lacks diplomatic experience, he is the son of career diplomat George Landau, who was ambassador to Venezuela, Chile and Paraguay. The younger Landau was born in Madrid, attended the American School in Asuncion, Paraguay, and speaks Spanish fluently.

Garza said growing up around the foreign service and a familiarity with and affinity for Latin America will serve Landau well, along with his ties to Washington.

“I think that’s an awfully strong skillset,” Garza said. “One is the appreciation for the culture, second is the intellect and third is the relationship that he has both back at the White House and State (Department).”

Landau was confirmed as ambassador by the U.S. Senate on Aug. 1 and swore in to the post Aug. 12.

He is married and has two children.