Smooth confirmation seen for Trump nominee to be ambassador to Mexico

By Patricia Zengerle
FILE PHOTO: Christopher Landau (L), partner at Kirkland & Ellis, and Pratik Shah, partner at Akin Gump, speak at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce 27th annual Supreme Court pre-term briefing in Washington October 3, 2014. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump's nominee to be ambassador to Mexico had a smooth U.S. Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday, and looked likely to easily win confirmation to a post that could be important in talks on disputed issues like immigration and trade.

Trump nominated Christopher Landau, 55, in March for the post in Mexico City, which has been vacant for a year.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's western hemisphere subcommittee, said Landau would play "a critical role."

"I had the opportunity to speak to him and we had a great conversation about the challenges and opportunities in the relationship," Rubio added.

"I hope that we can expedite this nomination and get it moving," said Senator Ben Cardin, the subcommittee's ranking Democrat.

At the same time Landau was in the Senate promising to seek common ground with Mexico's people and government, the Republican president took to his favoured medium Twitter with comments that underscored the complexity of the ambassador's position.

"Mexico's attitude is that people from other countries, including Mexico, should have the right to flow into the U.S. & that U.S. taxpayers should be responsible for the tremendous costs associated w/this illegal migration. Mexico is wrong and I will soon be giving a response!" Trump said on Twitter.

Trump, whose administration has been negotiating a new trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, last month threatened to put tariffs on cars coming from Mexico if its government did not help Washington deal with the immigration situation along the border.

Trump has made a crackdown on immigration across the southern U.S. border a central theme of his presidency and campaign. He has asked Congress for billions of taxpayer dollars to build a wall along the frontier with Mexico.

A prominent Washington lawyer and son of a former U.S. ambassador to Paraguay, Chile and Venezuela, Landau speaks fluent Spanish but lacks diplomatic experience of his own.

His nomination will next come up for a vote in the foreign relations committee, likely in June. There was no immediate word on when Landau might be considered by the full Senate, where Trump's fellow Republicans hold 53 of the 100 seats.

He needs just 51 votes in the Senate to be confirmed as ambassador.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Richard Chang)