Trump's top diplomat to Canada begins job today amid tense trade talks

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Kelly Craft begins her job as U.S. ambassador to Canada today at a time of delicate diplomatic talks on the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The former Republican fundraiser was sworn in by Kentucky governor and longtime friend Matt Bevin in August, and formally assumed her post after presenting her credentials to Gov. Gen. Julie Payette at Rideau Hall in Ottawa this morning.

Craft, the first female U.S. ambassador in Ottawa, said she is honoured to take on the role.

“Surely there is no better posting than Canada,” she said.

Craft said she plans to visit Canadians across the country, meet with politicians and community leaders at all levels to gain a deeper understanding of the “dynamic, multicultural society.”

She also said she will work to promote strong economic relationship and collaboration on security at the border, while making cross-border trade and travel easier.

Calling Canada a “friend, ally and neighbour,” Craft said it will be a privilege to promote ties.

“No two countries share a deeper or broader relationship than Canada and the United States,” she said. “We are bound together by history, our values, our economy, our families, our environment and our resolve to improve the lives of our citizens.”

‘Important business’

Craft also paid tribute to Gord Downie, the lead singer of The Tragically Hip who died last week after battling a rare form of brain cancer. She said Canada’s “favourite son” used art, music and writings to bring people closer.

“I believe this is important business that we should all be about,” she said.

Craft and Payette

U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft Gov. Gen. Julie Payette in Ottawa on Monday Oct. 23, 2017. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Payette also praised the bilateral relationship, calling it “uniquely and profoundly important.”

“We have a long and rich history and exchange on trade, the border, energy, the environment, culture and defence,” she said.

NAFTA talks finished a tense fourth round last week. At a news conference on Oct. 17, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland accused the U.S. of deliberately trying to undermine the trade agreement, calling its list of unconventional proposals “troubling.”

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer shot back that NAFTA had created a “huge” trade deficit and bled thousands of manufacturing jobs from the U.S., and accused Canada and Mexico of refusing to budge to rebalance the deal.

US Canada Mexico Trade

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Mexican Secretary of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal speak following a tense fourth round of NAFTA talks, in Washington on Oct. 17. Kelly Craft took on the role of President Donald Trump’s top envoy to Canada. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press)

“Frankly, I am surprised and disappointed by the resistance to change from our negotiating partners on both fronts,” he said.

Trump supporters

Freeland will meet with Craft at Global Affairs Canada at 4 p.m. ET today.

Craft and her billionaire husband, coal magnate Joe Craft, threw their support behind Trump during the 2016 U.S. election campaign.

Craft becomes first female U.S. Ambassador to Canada2:17

Their backing was based partly on a promise from the Trump team to allow key Republican Party members to keep their positions, including Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Craft is one of five heads of mission presenting credentials at Rideau Hall. The others are:

  • Adeyinka Olatokunbo Asekun, high commissioner-designate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
  • Mohamed Imed Torjemane, ambassador-designate of the Republic of Tunisia.
  • Martin Alberto Vizcarra Cornejo, ambassador-designate of the Republic of Peru.
  • Felix Nicolas Mfula, high commissioner-designate of the Republic of Zambia.

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