Remarks by Ambassador Craft at the Empire Club of Canada

April 4, 2018

Remarks delivered by U.S. Ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft

at the Empire Club luncheon in Toronto

As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you.

As I look out into this audience I would be remiss not to note one of your great figures is missing — Peter Munk is not among us today.  His legacy is an important one in this country.  I know he will be missed.

What a pleasure it is to be here.

Since becoming ambassador six months ago, I have been blessed by some extraordinary experiences, but being invited to speak at this historic podium ranks right up there. So many famous, powerful, and revered people from all over the world have stood on this spot and addressed this group. I’m truly humbled by this opportunity and I so appreciate you all being here today.

Sensing I was a bit nervous about the footsteps in which I am following by standing here at this podium, my husband, Joe, who is here with us today, offered this cheerful advice:  “Honey, don’t worry about it. Just be one part Reagan, one part Churchill, one part Thatcher, and one part Dalai Lama, and you’ll be fine.”  Thanks, Joe. That’s some really helpful counsel you’ve got there.

In all seriousness, I do want to recognize my husband, Joe, who encouraged me to take on this challenge. That opened the door to another great mentor, Canada’s ambassador to Washington, my counterpart, David MacNaughton.

David and I have built a close professional relationship, and I’m also proud to call him my friend.

This club was formed, as most of you know, in a time of political and social unrest. The founders felt that the rigorous airing of ideas in a club like this was most essential exactly at such times.  I think it is safe to say that the whole world is facing a period of political and social unrest on many fronts right now, within countries and between them.

According to the principles of the club, this forum strives to “present various perspectives — including those that may not be popular but should be heard.”

So, given that, I’d like to spend my time with you today going line by line through the current language in NAFTA and giving you my thoughts and analysis about what’s wrong with it. If you look under your seats, you will find a copy of the full text of the agreement and you can follow along with me.

Made you look…..

NAFTA is indeed a big topic, but I only plan to touch on it to explain why President Trump made re-evaluating that pact a centerpiece of his campaign when he ran for the White House two years ago.

It is very true that many of us in this room — and rooms just like it in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico — have all been pretty happy with NAFTA as it was originally agreed to and as it has operated.  But that rising tide hasn’t lifted all boats evenly, especially not the ones that are anchored to the bottom.

President Trump heard the calls for change from those in middle America — patriotic, hard-working people — who feel left behind, and he took up their cause.

These individuals wonder if they will be able to afford to keep their homes when interest rates go up, or send their kids to college. They worry that the next generation will have fewer economic opportunities that they’ve had, and question the benefits of costly wars fought thousands of miles away over issues that don’t always make sense to them.

We see the same kind of uncertainty among the working families in Canada, too, as well as in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere.  Are today’s leaders reacting to changing conditions, changing demands, in ways that are meeting the needs not only of today but into the future?

Prime Minister Trudeau does not share all of President Trump’s policy prescriptions, to be sure, but they both have that finger-tip feel, that visceral sense that we are in a period of great possibility which can turn into a period of great peril if we don’t respond to the demands from working people in our countries who want dignity that results from having a good job — one with a meaningful future.  A job that contributes to building a genuinely caring society.

Now, in looking to make the right kind of changes in government, it is always smart to look for best practices.   To tweak a frequent line of one of our recent Democratic presidents, Bill Clinton, “There is nothing wrong with the U.S.-Canadian relationship that cannot be cured with what is right with the U.S.-Canadian relationship.” 

Look, I have every confidence that together, we will fix NAFTA so that it can work for the next 25 years — fixes that ensure flexibility as our economies evolve and that ensuring prosperity is shared by everyone.

So what I would like to do today is talk briefly about some of the best practices that our two countries can do and from which the rest of the world can learn.

From military capabilities, to fighting crime, to responding to natural disasters, to the environment, and to the economy, we can make our governments work better for our citizens. It’s a matter of cooperation.

Let me give you a few examples of areas where our joint efforts have already been fabulously successful and could be replicated more widely.

Last week while at NORAD I was reminded of the great responsibility our governments have to keep us safe.

We need to do it in the most sophisticated, efficient, and cost-effective way possible.  If you want to see an American-Canadian joint effort that is sophisticated, efficient, and cost effective, you will not find a better place to look than NORAD.

The current threat from North Korea is very much on our minds and it is comforting to know that our two militaries can work together so skillfully on such a complex problem.  A strong, combined military posture greatly increases the opportunities for a diplomatic solution.

The same is true for keeping our citizens safe from criminal activities, especially those that cross borders.  It is harder to fool two people than one. The same goes for law enforcement.  When we work together —–we have been successful in combatting crime that disproportionately impacts the most vulnerable in our society: Human trafficking.  Sadly, we haven’t yet been able to defeat this scourge of human trafficking.  But we’re working on it.  And it’s not just the police forces.  The private sector is also vital to supplement the work of government to end human trafficking.

In an example of the people-to-people collaboration and problem solving between Canadians and Americans, a U.S.-based non-profit called Polaris is working with the Canada Centre to End Human Trafficking to establish a hotline here in Canada, launching this fall, to connect victims of trafficking with needed services, and to build critical data to help law enforcement stop trafficking rings.

The U.S. and Canada also have a long history of collaboration when it comes to crisis management and reacting to natural disasters, and some not-so-natural ones.  Every second counts in a crisis, and a devastated family is grateful for a helping hand whether it is a Canadian hand or an American one.

The recent storm in New England caused power outages and left more than a million Americans without electricity.  Hydro One here in Toronto responded by sending a team of 150 power line workers and 25 support staff to Boston and Baltimore to help restore power.  This is just one way that Canadians and Americans stand shoulder to shoulder in times of need, taking special care when the most affected citizens are the ones least able to fend for themselves — a great example for the rest of the world.

Another area is the environment and our great outdoors.

People all over the world, even in communist countries such as China, are shouting their demands that their governments must be good stewards of the environment.  Natural resources have to be protected and made available for everyone to use.  Often, these issues cross international borders. There is no better example anywhere in the world of two countries working together than on the preservation and supervision of the Great Lakes.

The United States and Canada have a long history of sharing and caring for the Lakes, a valuable environmental and economic resource for both our countries.  The U.S. draws more than 40 billion gallons of water from the Great Lakes every day — 24 million Americans, 9.8 million Canadians benefit from the Great Lakes.

(Drinks from a glass of water)

See —— I’m all in!

As an example of cross-border teamwork to protect our natural resources, our Consulate in Toronto engaged binational experts on the issue of salt contamination in the Great Lakes to share road salt management best practices.

In another case, to boost regional economic development, working group members created an application called the Great Lakes Guide to attract people on both sides of the border to spend time and money in the Great Lakes Region.  This has helped U.S. and Canadian families enjoy trips to the area, and let small business owners on both sides of the border see their revenue grow.

Those are just two examples of how simply put, joint efforts on both the environment and the economy have produced local benefits for our two countries.

But as you all know well, there has been an extraordinary amount of bilateral effort that has helped our two economies grow in tandem.  There has been cross-border research and development in important sectors such as technology, health care, and manufacturing; cross-border production and investment; and, of course trade.  Let me talk briefly about those areas, because the free flow of ideas, people, and products leads to strong economies, solid jobs for people with multiple skill sets, and inventive services of the future.

As a woman, a daughter, and a mother, breast cancer has touched our family as I am sure it has many of yours. This is another place we can join together and fight this devastating illness.

Phoenix Molecular Designs is a Vancouver-based biotech start-up that does research and development on a new oral drug to treat triple negative breast cancer. In June of last year, CEO Dr. Sandra Dunn announced the company would expand to San Diego, which would provide, as she put it, “access to talent with regards to drug development which we do not have in Vancouver.” The company now splits its management team between San Diego and Vancouver, and has established partnerships with the National Institutes of Health, the University of Florida, the Mayo Clinic, University of Hawaii Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Canadian partnerships.

My grandparents took me on my first trip to Canada in the 70’s.  My grandfather driving his Ford pickup pulling a big ol’ travel trailer – you guys call them “fifth wheels,” I think.

If I were to take my grandchildren on a road trip today, there a good chance we’d be traveling in style thanks to  a couple of Torontonians — John Long and his wife, Helena Mitchell, founders of the Bowlus Road Chief.  This is a high-end, lightweight — think fuel efficiency — aluminum travel trailer.   It’s very cool, and another Canadian-California tie-up that shows our shared entrepreneurial spirit, albeit in a very different realm.

Now here’s a tech example I just love, because it shows how fluidly ideas, investment, and jobs can flow back and forth over our border.  Stewart Butterfield, born and raised in British Columbia, founded Slack Technologies in Vancouver in 2009, after founding the photo-sharing website Flickr and selling it to Yahoo.

I am sure many of you already use Slack’s flagship product, which is an office messaging application that Time Magazine, The Verge, and other tech industry publications have dubbed an “email killer.”

The app was developed for Butterfield to keep track of the development of a video game project that shared programming duties between Vancouver and U.S. offices.

Pretty quickly, he realized the game was not nearly as cool as the app he had created. Butterfield launched Slack as a stand-alone app in 2014, raising $120 million U.S. in venture capital funding.  The app now has more than 9 million active users, generating more than $60 million in annual revenue, with a $5 billion private valuation.  One of the 9 million users happens to be my 25-year-old daughter.

Slack decided to relocate its headquarters to San Francisco in 2017, but has offices in Vancouver, Toronto, New York, London, Dublin, Melbourne, and Tokyo.  That is a great Canadian success story and a great American success story.

But probably nowhere are there greater examples of cross-border synergy than with your Toronto Maple Leafs — powered by an American, Auston Matthews — and my beloved Kentucky Wildcats, which has seen a steady stream of Canadian stars including my favorites, Jamal Murray and Shai Alexander.

Finally, trade, which I touched on earlier, remains a bright spot between our two countries.

We share an enormous amount of trade between our two countries, a constant exchange of all sorts of things, as well as shared manufacturing arrangements.  We are as economically intertwined as any two countries on the planet, to the enormous benefit of the working people in both countries.

Yes, President Trump believes that the U.S. workers are getting the short end of the stick in some of our trade deals — NAFTA included — but the fact that we can have the discussion with our eyes firmly on the horizon is a testament to where we are in our relationship.

I have yet to meet a Canadian who thinks the 23-year-old agreement is perfect. Like a solid house, it needs to be updated to reflect 21st century standards and realities, but there’s no reason to tear it down.  As David and I know, we are working toward a modern agreement that better reflects the state of digital trade, intellectual property, financial services, agriculture, and more.  In the NAFTA talks, to put it simply, we all want a good outcome.

Let’s talk about one sector that impacts American workers, where President Trump feels American workers and companies are treated unfairly.  We fully understand the importance of the food and agriculture supply chain that underpins U.S. and Canadian agriculture trade. With almost $1 billion Canadian per week in agricultural goods crossing the border both ways, we put a lot of food on each other’s plates.

Now, I could bore you with a sad story about American dairy producers and the Canadian supply-managed system that keeps them from competing in this market;

Or I could talk about market access for American telecom companies;

Or drug patents…..

Let’s just say the list of these kinds of grievances is long on both sides of the border.

Know what else is long? The lineup of cars driving back into Canada every weekend that has to stop and declare any purchase when traveling just for the day.  Think of the carbon footprint of those traffic jams spread across our border.

This de minimis limit applies to online purchases too.

Now, a lot of Canadians might not agree on what the U.S. suggests — $800.00 a day — but come on, $200.00!

Surely there’s a number that reflects the reality of 2018, not 1978.

As I’ve said earlier, I’m confident we can get a deal that everyone feels good about and one that sets us on great footing for the next quarter-century.   And I’m just as confident that America and Canada will continue to have the strong military, law enforcement, environmental, and economic ties that have served us both so well.

It all starts with a genuine effort to meet the urgent demands for change that are coming loud and clear from the grassroots across both our countries.

As U.S. Ambassador I am both the custodian of — and a beneficiary of —our long and deep friendship built on mutual trust and respect.

That kind of relationship cannot be fabricated, nor does it exist merely because we share a common border.  That kind of relationship has deep roots in common values we cherish and defend.  It has survived wars and calamity, triumph and tragedy. It is as familiar as a favorite robe and as trusted as a childhood friend.

Whatever else goes on in this commercial relationship, it’s important that we never forget that our countries are all so much more than that and that we will continue to grow together.  I know I speak for Ambassador MacNaughton when I say that we are awed by the responsibility as stewards of this relationship, but also motivated by the challenges and opportunities we see every day. We have two great countries with one amazing future.

No one epitomizes building common ground for our generations more than Martin Luther King, Jr. His words ring true today as they did in 1964.

“The time is always right to do what is right.”