As the end of the year approaches, I want to take some time to reflect on 2021 and on my first few weeks in Canada. I was so honored to be nominated by President Biden to serve as the United States Ambassador to Canada. To borrow some phrasing from a well-known song this time of year – though the Ottawa weather has, at times, been frightful, the warm welcome I have received has been delightful!
Governor General Mary Simon welcomed me to Rideau Hall on December 7 to present my credentials alongside fellow ambassadors from Israel, Spain, and Sri Lanka. Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with nearly a third of the Cabinet for introductory meetings to discuss a wide range of issues. As Ambassador, I believe open lines of communication are a necessity to build relationships and advance our shared goals. And I think we are off to a very good start.
As Ambassador, I am very fortunate that President Biden and Prime Minister Trudeau so clearly outlined our bilateral priorities earlier this year in the Roadmap for a Renewed U.S.-Canada Partnership. The Roadmap is a straightforward guide to preserving and building the relationship between our two countries. The priorities outlined in the Roadmap will help guide my work and the work of Mission Canada in the months and years ahead.
Two of the pillars of the Roadmap resonate particularly strongly with me. One is the overarching goal to Build Back Better, coupled with the commitment to work to create opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses – especially businesses owned by women, Indigenous people, and people of color. These businesses form the bedrock of both of our countries’ economies and have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our bilateral commitment to Build Back Better from the ravages of the pandemic must feature strategies for equitable growth.
The second pillar I want to call out is building more diverse, equitable, inclusive, and accessible societies. This is a particular passion of mine, and I want these values to be reflected both at the Embassy and in my external work as Ambassador.
I am very pleased that as I have talked about my planned focus with government officials and internally at the Embassy, these two priorities are shared by so many stakeholders.
Leading our Mission in Canada – a country that is so important to the United States and to President Biden – is the professional opportunity of a lifetime for me. One of the things that makes our relationship unique is that Canada and the United States are not just neighbors – we are friends and the closest of allies. I have analogized our relationship as being almost like a family.
I know our relationship will only grow stronger as we continue to work together to address our shared challenges. For example, a few weeks ago, both the United States and Canada joined in a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Beijing Olympics. Working together in support of human rights and democracy around the world is a foreign policy priority we share, and we’re stronger when we stand together.
Of course, like in any family, we are not always going to see eye to eye. We are two sovereign nations, and we will have differences. But the test of our relationship is not how we react when we agree – it is how we handle the limited situations where we have differences. I have tried to emphasize in my comments, including to the press, that we must look at the challenges we face in the context of the breadth and depth of our overall relationship. We are each other’s closest trading partners. Two billion Canadian dollars’ worth of goods cross our border every day, and 32 U.S. states count Canada as their number one trading partner. We are close allies in NATO, and we share the world’s only binational defense command in NORAD. Most importantly, we’re friends – the closest of friends. As President Biden said earlier this year, “The United States has no closer and no more important friend than Canada. Our nations share a close geography and history that will forever bind us together.”
As Ambassador, I’m looking forward to meeting Canadians across the country virtually and in-person, when public health guidelines allow – not just business leaders and government officials, but everyday Canadians, too. I’m very excited for the opportunity to be involved in this great partnership between our two countries, and I look forward to what’s to come.
I want to wish everyone the healthiest and happiest of holidays, and I am looking forward to seeing you in the New Year.
Ambassador David L. Cohen