At a fragile moment in the bilateral relationship, the US government wants to send an ambassador to Brazil to bridge the gap between the White House and Planalto directly, without intermediaries, and navigate easily through the issues that are currently the main pillars of negotiations between the countries. : trade and environment.
In Washington, the idea crystallized that the new diplomatic representative in Brasilia should have a political profile, with experience in South America and the support of the Democratic Party. The candidate will replace Todd Chapman, who announced his retirement last month and is expected to leave representation in the coming days.
One of the names that brings these credentials together and that has stood out in recent conversations between aides to President Joe Biden is that of Kellie Meiman Hock, managing partner of McLarty Associates, one of the largest consulting firms in the world. American capital. Economist and Latin American specialist, Hock has been responsible for the company’s business practices in Brazil and the Southern Cone for more than two decades.
Previously, from 1997 to 2000, he worked at USTR, the US trade representative, and in US negotiations with Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.
The USTR has ministerial status and coordinates the formulation and negotiation of US trade policy. With the American and Brazilian economies competing in many sectors, the agency ended up concentrating the contentious disputes between the two countries.
Fluent in Portuguese, Hock lived in Porto Alegre, São Paulo, and Recife in the early 1990s, when he worked in the Foreign Affairs Department of the State Department under Bill Clinton. The relationship with Biden’s party is also strong thanks to the work of her husband, Jim Hock, a Democratic campaign donor and former Commerce Department chief of staff under Barack Obama.
Those with access to negotiations for the new ambassador to Brazil say the campaign that elected Biden and carried the acronym to a majority in Congress required a Herculean effort from the party’s base – in addition to donations – and that nomination for posts abroad is a way of rewarding these actors.
While, on the one hand, he has the political backing to qualify as a presidential pick, Kellie Meiman Hock exhibits similar characteristics to other appointments made by Biden for key positions: knowledge of the area of expertise and familiarity with the location. . of the mission.
The economist is described by those who worked with her as an appreciator of Brazilian themes and a negotiator with a liberal vision of foreign trade, very critical of the tariff war and the protectionism that marked the Trump era. Under the leadership of the Republicans, there were tensions between Brazil and the United States when the Americans overtaxed products like steel and aluminum, for example.
Despite the trend towards a political choice for the embassy in Brasilia, interlocutors told Folha that the names of career diplomats cannot be excluded. Among the ranks of the State Department, one of the best known is James Story, the current United States Ambassador to Venezuela – due to the United States’ break with the Nicolás Maduro regime, he dispatched from Bogotá (Colombia).
Story also has close ties to Brazil, having served as Consul General in Rio and Head of the Politico-Economic Sector at the US office in São Paulo. He appears on the list for having a story focused on environmental issues. He previously headed the Regional Office of Environmental Affairs for South America, Brasilia, and worked in the Department of Oceans, Environment and Scientific Affairs of the State Department.
The advance of deforestation in the Amazon and Jair Bolsonaro’s anti-conservation rhetoric have become the main hotbed of friction between Brazil and the United States under Biden. Thus, the possible choice of a person with the profile of Story would be a strong message that Washington intends to redouble the pressure on the environmental side.
The process of choosing the new ambassador is still expected to take some time and, therefore, it is possible that other names will emerge until Biden’s final appointment, but attention remains focused on the profile and experience of the new one. server, which can limit the latitude in relations between countries.
The White House has already made it clear that the environmental results will guide negotiations with Brazil and could facilitate other areas, including trade. Neither side expects major agreements between the two countries in the coming months, but the parties want talks to continue.
Among the Brazilians, it is interesting to continue the historical relationship with the greatest world power. For Americans, keeping Brazil at the environmental negotiating table is key to Biden’s geopolitical leadership – the country owns 60% of the Amazon rainforest in its territory. Officially, the State Department has said questions about choosing the new ambassador should be put to the White House.
Asked by Folha, US Foreign Department spokesman Ned Price said he could not provide the names of those on the list or a deadline for choosing the new ambassador. He stressed that Brazil is an “important partner” and that the new person in charge of bilateral relations “will be someone who has the confidence of Secretary of State Antony Blinken and President Biden”. It may seem obvious, but it is because of the lack of confidence that Chapman will be leaving the post. Appointed by Trump for the post, the diplomat was aligned with the Republican and forged close ties with the Bolsonaro clan, which upset Biden’s aides.
According to American diplomats, the current ambassador was not in phase with the new government, and the change of post has been analyzed in Washington since the beginning of the year. Until Biden’s choice is confirmed, the US representation in Brasilia will be headed by diplomat Douglas Koneff.