Ambassador Craft’s Remarks at AmCham Canada’s Thanksgiving Celebration

November 15, 2018

As prepared for delivery. 

Good evening,

Ice and snow couldn’t keep us from celebrating Thanksgiving with Toronto AmCham. Fun day touring MaRs amd Jlabs!

It’s the season for Thanksgiving, Kentucky Basketball, and our much-loved Toronto Raptors…what an impressive season. Congrats Coach Nurse!

Tonight, I would like to talk about three things:

  • Insights from the trade negotiations;
  • A couple of things that surprised me about Canada; and
  • A future-facing agenda for the great Canada-U.S. relationship.

A few moments ago, I mentioned the interconnections between our wonderful basketball program at the University of Kentucky and your beloved Toronto Raptors.

You know, cheering for our favorite sports teams may also provide a useful analogy when it comes to discussing the Canada-U.S. relationship.

Just as on the eve of a highly anticipated sporting event like the Grey Cup – the NBA Championship or the Stanley Cup – there is tension in the air.  The team owners, athletes, fans and media all gear up for an intense contest, so too with the renegotiation of NAFTA. During the negotiations, like in a great sports rivalry, there were tensions, points scored on both sides, as well as a couple of missed goals. Thankfully, though, no injuries, and the outcome was worth the effort.

The point I am trying to make here is that, sure the relationship is strained at the moment – that’s natural. We just got through a big game and we are great competitors. But like any great athlete – even when they play against each other in the big game, they have so much in common because they both play the same sport. Canada and the United States play the same sport. Sometimes we are on the same team – USMCA versus the world – sometimes we are in a game against each other – as in the NAFTA negotiations.  But we get each other. We respect each other.

And we are both better for having had the opportunity to work out, practice and compete in the same league with each other.

Insights & Surprises from Trade Negotiations

This brings me to my first insight about the trade negotiations that we just concluded.

I learned a fundamentally important fact about Canadians.  You have a reputation for being incredibly nice.  This much, I already knew.  Canadians deserve that reputation.  What I didn’t know, is that you are also incredibly tough.  Maybe its the snow and long winters, maybe its all those hours playing pee-wee hockey, maybe it’s something else, but I am here to tell you – your trade negotiators are very tough.  I sat across the table from them for the better part of the last year.  Some days, between the tweets and the toughness of the talks, I didn’t know if we were going to get to a new agreement.

But you know what? Toughness was matched by an ability to keep cool and stick to our mutual goal of modernizing a two-decade year old agreement that the North American economy had outgrown.

How did we get here?

Well, its important to recall first of all, that my President campaigned on the premise that he could get a better deal for the United States, if given the chance.  He campaigned on it, and he is focused on following through on his campaign promises. The President is always talking about the impact on our policies on workers and farmers.

And here is where Canadian toughness comes in. Through all of the negotiations, your team insisted on something that I have come to understand is very important: the protection of culture.

Before these talks began, I have to admit that I never really focused on the importance of a people being able to tell their own stories in their own voices. Prime Minister Trudeau wanted to make sure that the behemoth of U.S. media industry didn’t overwhelm the ability of Canadians to protect that which is quintessentially Canadian.  This was a red line for Canada and I admire you for it.

As a matter of fact, it has me thinking about my own little piece of the world – an area known as Appalachia.

There are other elements of the trade negotiation as well that merit recognition:


USMCA has the most advanced, comprehensive highest standard chapter on the environment than any trade agreement. It includes measures to combat trafficking in wildlife, timber, and fish. It addresses air quality and marine litter. It brings all environmental provisions into the core of the agreement and makes them fully enforceable. It includes a mandatory prison sentence for wildlife trafficking.


Not addressed in NAFTA, understandably.  E-commerce didn’t even exist when NAFTA was negotiated. Now we have some guideposts about issues like cross-border data flows, and data localization that will help our modern economy flourish as together we face the emerging capability of our competitors coming into the digital age.


Something NAFTA never addressed. In USMCA, we have an historic agreement on currency, for the first time we have a provision on currency manipulation and transparency. It protect from countries devaluing their currency in order to profit from their exports.

I mentioned earlier that the toughness of the Canadian negotiators came as a surprise.  I should add that while I was surprised, my colleagues at USTR were not surprised. The career officials in our government have been in all kinds of negotiations around the world.  Canadian negotiators have a reputation for being tough but fair.

But here is something that was in fact new to all of us.  It has to do with words that none of us had actually heard used together, they are “feminist foreign policy”. What does that mean?  What is Canada trying to accomplish here?  These were the questions being asked in world capitols all over the planet, including in Washington, D.C.

And after a year in this job, including intensive 10 months of negotiations, I have come to understand that phrase.  As I reflect, I think about the players at the NAFTA table.  It starts with your Foreign Minister, Chrystia Freeland.  I have come to know her well and admire her tenacity and focus.  But it’s not just Chrystia.

At the beginning of the negotiation, there was a column in the Globe & Mail titled, “The Sisterhood that Could Save NAFTA.” At the time, I didn’t realize how true that title would become. It’s not just Chrystia, its also Canada’s Deputy Ambassador in Washington, a brilliant lawyer named Kristen Hillman.

And by the way, its not just the Canadians, but in the United States, we benefitted greatly from the work of people like our agriculture negotiator, Sharon Bomer-Lauristen.  She knows more about milk, cheese and poultry commerce than any farmer I have ever met.  And she, along with her team pulled all-nighters in working through the text of proposals that were as technical and complex as any agreement you can imagine.

These are just a couple examples of the the women at the table that shaped the new agreement.  As the first woman appointed to the position of U.S. Ambassador to Canada, I was delighted to take part in an historic agreement that was shaped by Canada’s “feminist foreign policy.”

Future Facing Agenda for the Canada-U.S. Relationship

Now let me leave you with one other thought that is not related to USMCA or the sisterhood that shaped it.  Let me talk about some forward-looking agenda items for the Canada-U.S. relationship.

Since this is the AmCham, a business group, let me talk about some important business metrics for Canada and the United States.  Let me talk in terms of KPIs (key performance indicators) that I would like to focus on in the months to come.

First, Canada and the U.S. should strive to to deepen and modernize our ties through technology and innovation corridors. This sounds easy but requires a lot of heavy lifting. It affects a range of issues like immigration and security, harmonizing patent laws, the roles of our universities. It’s hard to imagine a part of the relationship it doesn’t touch, which is why we so often end up in our silos.

Second, let us build the commercial relationship into something bigger in which both STEM and STEAM are maximized.  Understandably, we put a lot of emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).  Those are the tools that drive business.  But just like steam engines used to power the economy, creating a culture where STEAM is just as important as STEM, which means adding arts into our lives and, most importantly, the lives of our youth — is what will allow us to be lifelong learners and to grow as cultures.

Third, as communities and as a community of countries, we need to do more philanthropy and do more with our philanthropy. Whether it’s devastating wildfires like we are experiencing in California right now, or the catastrophic ice storm that periled Quebec in the mid-nineties, our instincts are to help each other.

Need knows no borders

Let me conclude by thanking you for the invitation to join you for Thanksgiving, my favorite time of the year. Thank you for the warm embrace that you have given to Joe and me since our arrival in Canada. Thank you for your toughness as negotiators and for teaching us the importance of things like protecting culture. Thank you in particular to the sisterhood that has shaped the most modern trade agreement in the history of the world.

And finally, my request of you is that you join us in charting the future of our great relationship.  Together, let us challenge our countries and our fellow citizens to be a best possible version of ourselves.

As we reflect on Remembrance Day and prepare for Thanksgiving south of the border, let us give thanks for the freedoms we fight together to protect and preserve, and remember all those who came before us and forged the relationship we have today.


Kelly Craft

U.S. Ambassador to Canada