Remarks delivered by U.S. Ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft at the Conseil des relations internationales de Montréal (CORIM)

April 17, 2018


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

at the Conseil des relations internationales de Montréal (CORIM)

As Prepared for Delivery


Who will shape the future of our planet?

That’s a pretty heady question, I know.

The glass-half-full view of the world has lots to celebrate: millions moving out of poverty, breathtaking technological innovation, rising literacy rates, the eradication of deadly diseases.

But it is the half empty part of the glass that gets most of the media coverage and the focus of the efforts of governments and NGOs around the world.

To be sure, every country faces major challenges.  While technology has connected nations all over the globe, even countries that enjoy many strong alliances primarily think of their own constituencies first, before trying to find solutions to Earth’s biggest problems in a multilateral way.

If there’s an exception to that, it would be the United States and Canada.  We have our differences, but when it comes down to it, we are as tight as a medium T-shirt on Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.  The economic, diplomatic, security, and cultural ties between our two countries have only grown over the last several decades, and our shared sensibilities and true friendship have been in place longer still.

In 1947, President Harry S Truman said that “Canada and the United States have reached the point where we can no longer think of each other as ‘foreign’ countries.”

Fourteen years later, President John F. Kennedy told Parliament that “Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners.  And necessity has made us allies. Those whom nature hath so joined together, let no man put asunder.”

Our united partnership and the example we set will shape our children’s future, and our grandchildren’s future, as much as anything else. And I believe it will be our deep-felt, durable relationship and the joint efforts we make around the world that will lead to important solutions for every soul, on a global scale.

So today I want to talk to you about the five key areas I see that will define the U.S.-Canadian relationship going forward and, not coincidentally, will tell the story of how effectively the whole world can meet its challenges.

And when it comes to glass-half-full optimism, history suggests we will never be able to fill that glass all the way to the top.  But I am confident we can make progress in the following areas:

— finding the proper role for government to ensure that good, secure jobs exist for working families

— giving children and adults the education and training they need to fill those jobs

— making sure that technology is improving the lives of our people and energizing them, not undermining the right to privacy, creating alienation, or threatening our security

— empowering women and girls to give them the exact same opportunities that men and boys have in all spheres

— redefining the international order based on shared principles with the knowledge that non-state actors, rogue nations, refugee crises, and civil wars are grave threats to us all

Let me talk about each of those five areas, as they relate to the future of our bilateral relationship and the future of the world.

First, jobs.  At its heart, the ongoing NAFTA negotiations are about jobs for families.  For several decades now under NAFTA, Canada, the U.S., and Mexico have seen aspects of their economies thrive.  Automobiles are probably the best example, but the myriad benefits of investment, innovation, partnerships, parts, and products crossing back and forth across the borders are clear and tangible.

But, despite the benefits of that cooperation, some Americans have been dissatisfied with NAFTA, blaming it for a further decline in manufacturing jobs.  That’s part of the reason that President Trump is insistent that the agreement be updated to reflect the current realities on the ground in all three nations.

A renovation of NAFTA can provide an example for other developed, industrial countries that struggle with anxiety over job quality and job growth.  NAFTA shows that a strong, customized trade deal can fit the needs of the countries involved.  It can be bilateral, trilateral, multilateral, whatever makes sense.  And then be revised when technological and other advancements warrant a new course.  The original NAFTA brought our two countries even closer together.  I’m confident the current talks will result in an agreement that will spur even more innovation and job growth, and serve as a model for the world.

But it is about more than trade deals, tariffs, fees, and taxes.  Governments, through research, infrastructure, sensible regulations, and social policy can ensure that jobs will be generated by the private sector.  Both our countries now have leaders who are laser-focused on making sure we are putting such policies in place.

Second, creating solid jobs – with living wages and generous benefits – does us no good without an education system and a worker training plan that can prepare people for those jobs—people who are just starting out in the work force and people in the midst of career changes.  Back home in Kentucky, I have been involved in education reform for many years.  Whether it’s learning a skill or getting a PhD, there is nothing more important for building human capital than making sure we have world-class education that lasts a lifetime.

Many Canadians attend school in the United States and vice versa.  Canadian and American universities are the envy of all the world.  But I must admit with some frustration that below the college level, we have work to do in the U.S. to improve our schools. This requires adequate funding, but at least as important is making sure the money is well spent.  And that requires education reform.  All countries need to be fearless and steadfast when it comes to enacting sweeping changes in how we teach our children and young adults.

Being able to match workers with jobs also requires coordination between schools and employers at the national, regional, and local levels.  In both Canada and the U.S., we have increased efforts in this area, giving workers more confidence that they will be able to find a job and employers more confidence that they can tap into a qualified workforce.  Recently, the U.S. Chamber Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation selected the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Michigan to host statewide Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) Academies – a U.S. Chamber Foundation initiative in which participating employers, employer-led associations, and educators will receive training and build partnerships using a demand-driven concept to connect employees and employers.  This statewide strategy to close the skills gap equips business leaders with the tools that they need to hire and develop stronger workforces.  If this type of initiative can work in individual states, it can work across borders as well.

With so much technological change, our countries need to learn from each other how to keep improving in this area.

That technological change is the third area I want to talk about.  So much of the latest improvements around the world have been driven by the power of innovation in the digital age.  Again, the U.S. and Canada have been leaders in generating new technologies.  Many Americans still sigh wistfully, remembering their first true love—their very first BlackBerry– a Canadian brand, I might add.  And how many Canadians are madly in love with their iPhones… Talk about bilateral links.  Personally, I use both devices.

There are, of course, many other revolutionary changes we have seen in our lifetimes:  the cloud, online banking, laser surgery, and driverless cars, just to name a few.  Turning these technologies into devices and services that save lives and increase productivity can and has changed the very nature of how a multitude of businesses get their work done.

But as the fruits of the digital age have become omnipresent in our lives, we have seen the dangers that derive from these wonders of modernity.  We all love to message, email, chat, post, share, like, tweet, favorite, forward, and video conference.  But all that mediated contact can be alienating, too often a substitute for face-to-face, heart-to-heart human contact.  The brick and mortar town square is a more vibrant and important place to gather than the virtual one.   And the extreme negativity that people feel free to express on social media continues to boggle my mind.

Those of you who are parents can see the alienation and isolation this technology is causing in our children.  But if we are being honest with ourselves, it can be pretty isolating for adults too.  I think the whole world should act fast to keep this trend in check, and our two countries should lead the way.

The same with privacy.  Anybody with Google can learn WAY too much about other people.  And those with more advanced access to information can learn a lot more than that, and in some cases that can get into hazardous and hostile territory. Both our nations cherish the right to privacy, the right to keep some things about ourselves TO ourselves.  That is getting harder and harder to do and we need to install some foolproof boundaries.

And more broadly, cyber security.  If you work in government or run a business, you know that more and more of your resources are going toward protecting your digital systems, both for the data they contain and the role they play in controlling and securing your physical plants.  Again, we’ve both been on the cutting edge of what is now one of the most important emerging fields, and we, and the rest of the world, need to be able to keep our information and property safe and under our control.

Cyber security may be a NEW problem, but we also need to address one of the oldest problems in the world.  I think it is fair to say that Eve did not have the same opportunities as Adam.  We know today, even in our two highly advanced countries, for all the gains women have made across the board, that we haven’t done enough. Not nearly enough. There still isn’t equality of opportunity, of advancement, of pay, of treatment, of respect in our popular culture.  President Trump, whom I’m privileged to represent, and Prime Minister Trudeau highlighted this glaring gap in their first meeting by creating the Canada-U.S. Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders.   They recognized that in order for our two countries to be successful, we need more women leaders in business and government, more women in STEM careers, and more female entrepreneurs.  I’m proud to be the first female ambassador from the U.S. to Canada. And it sure would be great if you all returned the favor at some point.  There are many examples of U.S. and Canadian women working together to empower females in both countries.  I think of Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors, who has prioritized women in leadership positions as an important part of GM’s corporate identity, not because she has to, but because it just makes sense.  I think this is just fantastic. We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.

Finally, the NEW new world order. As the Cold War ended, the first President Bush recognized that with that good news came some bad. The end of the Soviet empire brought with it uncertainty. What would replace the old balance of power?  Frankly, we still don’t know.  What we see around us now is a lot of instability.  Violent groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS, who have significant resources and wild plans but do not have the accountability of a country.  Outlaw nations like North Korea, Syria, and Iran, led by dictators who show no regard for the safety and happiness of their own people, but who nurture dangerous and expansionary ambitions.  We see the heartbreaking sight of refugees and immigrants across the world, often children, who daily live with hunger, fear, and the threat of death.  And the outbreak of civil wars that the United Nations and other international organizations are unable to prevent, mediate, or end.

I don’t think even the brightest Canadian or American scholars have figured out what all those threats add up to.  As we meet here today, there’s no denying that whatever this new new order turns out to be, true peace and prosperity is not going to be possible until we find better ways to deal with this chaos.

You know that expression, fences make good neighbors?  You look around the world at countries that share a border and often they are the most violent of enemies.  Iran and Iraq for so many years.  The Israelis and the Palestinians.  Saudi Arabia and Yemen today.

Well, happily, that is not the case with Canada and the United States. Now it is true that Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was famously quoted saying that being America’s neighbor “is like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered the beast…one is affected by every twitch and grunt.”

I’m quite certain the PM meant that affectionately.

My point is that from NORAD to cyber security to peace-keeping to international refugee and medical relief, our two neighboring countries, rather than being enemies, have been the closest of allies.  We respect each other.  We protect each other.  And we recognize that a shared border is a cause for grace and esteem, not distrust and resentment. It’s the most obvious, and maybe the most important, thing I will say in my remarks:  if neighboring countries around the world started to get along as well as the United States and Canada, the new new NEW world order would be pretty wonderful indeed.

Just seven months ago, I arrived in Canada and presented credentials to Governor General Julie Payette.  Her strength and poise struck me as a perfect welcome to Canada.  Let me close today by quoting her…

“The young people who are here, in the Senate of Canada, the highest place of governance in our country, are showing us that Canada is in good hands.

My friends, aim high, dare to dream, the sky has no limit to a life that unites us. “

From what I have learned and from what I have experienced since starting my assignment as ambassador, I can say that the dreams of BOTH our beautiful countries will never die, for us and for the world.

Thank you very much.