Remarks by Ambassador Kelly Craft at the American Chamber of Commerce in Canada Christmas Reception

As prepared for delivery.

Thank you, Rick for that kind introduction.  You read it just the way I wrote it, which I appreciate!

Rick and his Chamber colleagues briefed me on my very first official trip to the Toronto consulate.  The American Chamber here is a WORKING chamber, and it deserves much of the credit for why the US-Canadian economies continue to speed along in tandem.  Rick, it is great to see you again, along with some of the now very familiar faces of your colleagues.

To the entire Chamber, I am privileged to be your guest this evening, and to be here in Canada in service to my country, representing the American people in this, our most consequential relationship.  For my husband Joe, and for me, serving the United States is the greatest public honor of our lives.

Please also join me in welcoming here this evening from the government of Canada:  Scott Brisson and Andrew Leslie; the Ambassadors from Mexico and Sweden; Perrin Beatty from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce; and Ottawa’s own Mayor Jim Watson.  Mr. Mayor, I am so appreciative of the time that your sister Jayne has taken to introduce me to the Ottawa arts community.

Getting to celebrate the holiday season in your country has been so special. I’ve just spent some time walking around Ottawa, and it is a Christmas wonderland!  The dazzling lights on Parliament Hill, the special ice rink built in honor of Canada 150, the crispness in the air that in Kentucky we call “sweater weather,” and that unmistakable feeling of optimism, hope, and good will. Everything is SO festive.  And it doesn’t hurt that in the spirit of the season, there’s plenty of commerce going on as well.

I’ve even heard a rumor that NORAD has already started tracking Santa’s journey across North America.  So I hope everyone’s been nice!

As Ambassador, I know I have no more important partner than the American Chamber.  The long-standing depth and breadth of the economic connection between our countries could easily lead to some complacency.  But instead, we only value it more every year and look for innovative ways to make it even better.

Yes, it is true that the United States and Canada already enjoy the world’s largest and most comprehensive relationship.  The magnitude of our investment and economic activity in each other’s countries can be measured in real terms that impact real people, real families, and real communities.  I’m talking about the millions of jobs that this economic relationship brings to both our countries.  And as I said, we don’t take that success for granted.

But amidst this holiday cheer, I put this serious challenge to all of you:  what are you doing to prepare our young people, our next generation of business leaders, our next generation of political leaders, and our next generation of teachers, accountants, artists, and athletes?

STEM education is one crucial way to develop the skills our children need to thrive in an economy that demands innovation and creativity.  I say to all of you, it is our collective responsibility as guardians of a safe future for the next generation, to invest in ensuring that the next generation is ready.  And being ready also means appreciating just how extraordinary the US-Canadian relationship has been – and must continue to be.

With an audience like this, I would be remiss if I did not say something about NAFTA.  I am sure it is on the minds of everyone in this room as you try to forecast how the outcomes will impact your businesses and industries.

But, here’s the thing:  Trade negotiations by their very nature are challenging, especially when you consider that we are rebalancing an existing agreement.  And let me be absolutely clear:  the United States is committed to working with both Canada and Mexico on a NAFTA that is modern, forward looking, and rebalanced.

In describing the negotiations, the U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said, “A rebalanced, updated NAFTA will promote greater prosperity for American workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses, and strengthen the North American region as a whole.”

That last part is key:  it will strengthen the North American region as a whole!  Our economies are so interdependent on each other.  Everyone in the United States government knows that.  We are going to get to the right place, where our two great countries, our two great economies can thrive like never before.

I cannot emphasize this point enough:  Americans genuinely value relations of all forms with Canada.  I’m not just talking about the vitally important trade relationship.  I’m talking about our shared values, our kinship, and our exchanges in art, academia, tourism, and border security.   Oh, also, hockey.  And, of course, basketball!  The free flow of goods and services is one thing, but we also need that free flow of superstar athletes too.  Folks like Andrew Wiggins, Tristan Thompson, and Cory Joseph have wowed fans on both sides of the border.

And my beloved Kentucky Wildcats have been blessed with two more border-crossers: Trey Lyles, who now plays in the NBA, and Shai Alexander, who has already made a big impact as a freshman.

Our two countries are ONE family.  Our pasts are completely intertwined and our futures will be as well.  That’s not an accident of history or function of geography.  It is a necessity for the people of both countries and, indeed, for the world.

This is what our great American president, Ronald Reagan, said when describing Canada:   “We’re more than friends and neighbors and allies; we are kin, who together have built the most productive relationship between any two countries in the world today.”  Honestly, I couldn’t agree more.

I might point out, he said those words in 1985 … before NAFTA!  President Reagan’s words are as true today as they were over three decades ago.  This relationship simply cannot be broken.

I am blessed to have arrived in Ottawa during this year of celebration.  As neighbors, partners, allies, and friends, we Americans have joined in the spirit of Canada’s milestone year with congratulations and an optimistic feeling about what we can accomplish together.  I hope you all get a chance to visit the National Gallery here in Ottawa to see the beautiful photograph the American artist Stephen Wilkes created to honor Canada’s 150th anniversary of confederation.  It is quite spectacular, befitting such a beautiful country.

So as we work out our new trade relations and as Canada moves on to year 151, I am committed to strengthening the partnership between the U.S. Mission and the Chamber, under Rick’s leadership.

Rick, to you and your entire team, thank you for organizing this evening’s event.  Thank you for welcoming Joe and me to the American Chamber family.  This evening, let us all celebrate the holiday season while setting our sights on what we can accomplish together to make a positive contribution to the prosperity and well-being of Americans and Canadians.

Again, thank you for the opportunity to spend time with you during this special time.  I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and may you and your loved ones be blessed always.