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NAFTA, free trade and jobs, oil pipelines are all on Canadian ambassador’s plate

NAFTA, free trade and jobs, oil pipelines are all on Canadian ambassador’s plate

OTTAWA: A spur of the moment decision to attend a student Liberal Party convention when David MacNaughton was in college that was influenced more by his interest in a fellow female student than politics serendipitously launched a political career that has taken him to Washington as the Canadian ambassador to the United States. Along the way, he served in provincial government posts and as an adviser to the minister at the Departments of Transport, Industry and Foreign Affairs as well as built a successful career in public affairs and public relations.

MacNaughton was in Florida recently for a rocket launch at Kennedy Space Center, to visit the Canadian Consulate in Miami and to pay a call at the Southern Command in Doral. He said he makes a concerted effort to get out of Washington. “I’ve been to Boston, New York, Seattle, Los Angeles, Denver, San Diego,” MacNaughton said during an interview at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. “I’m going to Houston later in the week and now I’m here.” Florida, he said, is a very important economic partner for Canada. Not only is Canada the top destination for Florida agricultural products, but two-way trade between the state and Canada tops $8 billion annually and Canadians make more than 4 million annual visits to Florida, spending more than $5 billion. That easily makes Canada the state’s No. 1 tourism market.

Florida also is a big destination for Canadian investment, and Canadians hold around $50 billion in residential real estate in the state. MacNaughton took up his post in Washington last March, and now with a new American president in the White House, he must deal with such hot-button issues as the potential reopening of NAFTA negotiations and the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that would run from the oil sands of Alberta, Canada, to Steele City, Nebraska. While president, Barack Obama rejected a bid to build the pipeline, citing its impact on climate change. But in the first days of his administration, President Donald Trump took executive actions that would expedite the approval process for both the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines.