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Kelly Craft must mend Connection between old friends at odds

23 Oct 17
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Kelly Craft presents her credentials to Governor-General Julie Payette on Monday, taking up residence as the 31st ambassador of the United States to Canada. Not one of her predecessors faced what she faces.

The disputes between the two countries threaten the foundations of what was the planet’s closest bilateral relationship. Ottawa and Washington are diametrically opposed on a raft of important difficulties. Many Canadians dislike and distrust President Donald Trump, who might become the first elected president since Franklin Roosevelt to not go to Ottawa.

Besides that, things are fine.

David Jacobson was U.S. ambassador during Barack Obama’s first semester. Polls showed 80 percent of Canadians approved of the president.

“I always felt I had the wind at my back,” Mr. Jacobson said in a meeting. However an Ekos poll showed 80 percent of Canadians disapprove of Mr. Trump. “Whatever I felt blowing at my back, Ambassador Craft may feel blowing in her face.”

The main file, definitely, is the distressed NAFTA renegotiations. The Americans inserted a lot of poison pills into last week’s talks in Washington that they should have been charged with attempted murder.

The question today, as all sides prepare for another round in Mexico City, is if the United States wishes to renew the free-trade arrangement or intends to just walk away from it. As ambassador, Ms. Craft’s job is to convince Canadians that the Americans are sincerely interested in reaching a deal, while ensuring Washington understands that there’s not any way the Canadians will put up with things like a last-minute expiration date or an end to dispute-resolution mechanics.

Others have been operating this document for months, such as Canadian Ambassador David MacNaughton. Ms. Craft has some catching up to do.

Climate change is another significant irritant between the two nations. The Trump government served notice that the United States will withdraw from the Paris accord, even as the Trudeau government implements a federal carbon plan to meet Canada’s commitments.

On this vital document, Ms. Craft will arrive with bags. Her husband, Joe Craft, possesses Alliance Resource Partners, among the largest coal-mining operations in the eastern United States.

Canada has been robustly support NATO; Mr. Trump believes it is freeloading. The President is favorable with Russian leader Vladimir Putin; Canada’s relations with Moscow are so icy that Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has been prohibited from entering the country. The Trudeau government is angling for a seat on the United Nations Security Council; the Trump administration just pulled the USA out of UNESCO. Bombardier. Softwood. It goes on.

Never, in the life span of both nations, have they disagreed on so much. For the first time in 35 years, when pollsters began asking the question, more Canadians see the United States unfavourably than favourably. I’ve spoken to people across this nation about this President. Most do not merely disapprove of him, they fear him. They fear he could undermine U.S. democracy, cause an economic crisis or lead the world into nuclear war.

For Mr. Jacobson, the challenge for the new ambassador is to reduce the temperature in the connection, to concentrate on policy over character, to explain the rationale supporting the American position on so many conflicting documents and, more important, to describe this nation to the government in Washington.

“You’ve got to explain to them what is doable and not achievable, how things will be received and perceived by the Canadian government and the Canadian people,” Mr. Jacobson said. “You’ve got to help to establish priorities{}”

The great news is the new ambassador is thought to be warm, personable, keenly intelligent and a great listener. “She’s is quite a beautiful person,” said Mr. Jacobson, who met with her recently and came away impressed. “If everyone can succeed in the situation she’s stepping into, it’s someone like her{}”

Canada and the United States both need Ms. Craft to triumph as ambassador to Canada. We wish her well. Although if Mr. Trump cancels NAFTA, she might also go back to Kentucky.

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

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