U.S. President Donald Trump named longtime Republican donor Kelly Craft as ambassador to Canada Wednesday as the administration gears up for a round of negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Craft, who was first said in March to have accepted the nomination, will still need to be confirmed. Canada is the top export market for U.S. goods and its second-largest trading partner after China.
A Kentucky philanthropist, Craft heads Kelly G. Knight LLC, a business advisory firm based in Lexington. She has served on the board of directors of the Salvation Army and the Center for Rural Development, a nonprofit dedicated to economic progress in rural Kentucky.
She is a co-founder of the Craft Academy for Excellence in Science and Mathematics at Morehead State University. Along with husband Joseph Craft III—chief executive officer of coal producer Alliance Resources Partners LP—she donated to Trump and other Republican candidates in 2016. She was a rare example of an establishment Republican who regularly stood by Trump.
The appointment underscores the divide between the two administrations—the wife of a coal executive will be an envoy to the government of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, an outspoken climate advocate who will introduce a minimum carbon price next year and who may block the shipment of U.S. coal exports through his country.
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The two countries have recently sparred over softwood lumber, aerospace and the Paris Agreement on climate change. Canada, which ships three quarters of its exports south of the border, is seeking to expand trade ties with other countries.
Trudeau has regularly sought to make nice with Trump, though tensions are now emerging. Canada’s environment minister called the U.S. a “footnote” on climate this week. Another minister said this month that Canada was “standing up to” the U.S. by offering funding to workers caught in the middle of a lumber dispute. Talks on Nafta could begin as early as mid-August.
In a major speech last week that laid out the Trudeau government’s vision on foreign policy, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland pivoted away from the U.S. and expressed disappointment at the Trump administration’s abandonment of the Paris pact, while affirming that the existing international order helps constrain powerful nations.
One day later, however, Canada committed to higher defense spending, a key demand Trump has made of U.S. allies.
Separately, the Trump administration also named its choice for ambassador to Costa Rica, selecting Sharon Day, the former co-chairman of the Republican National Committee. In its statement, the White House said Day, a Florida resident, has been involved in Republican party politics from the local to the national level for more than 20 years, also working as a political columnist and commentator, and is focused on supporting female candidates and activists.