Canadian Manufacturing

David Cohen set to begin as new United States ambassador to Canada

In a statement, he says his top priority will be to preserve and to strengthen the special relationship between the two countries.

December 8, 2021  The Canadian Press

David Cohen is finally getting down to business as the newest United States ambassador to Canada — the first to take on the role full-time since 2019.

Cohen, a lawyer, lobbyist and former U.S. tech executive, presented his letters of credence today to Gov. Gen. Mary Simon in a ceremony at Rideau Hall.

In a statement, he says his top priority will be to preserve and to strengthen the special relationship between the two countries.

Cohen, who previously served as a senior adviser and chief diversity officer at U.S. communications giant Comcast, was nominated in July by President Joe Biden.

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Observers say he’ll be busy: a number of irritants are complicating U.S.-Canada ties under Biden, including a proposed tax credit for electric vehicles that threatens the health of the Canadian auto sector.

Cohen is the first full-time U.S. ambassador in Ottawa since Donald Trump’s choice, Kelly Craft, decamped in August 2019 to serve the U.S. envoy to the United Nations.

Despite his business background, Cohen is no stranger to political circles. In addition to serving as Comcast’s primary lobbyist, he spent five years as chief of staff to Philadelphia mayor Ed Rendell in the 1990s.

He also hosted the first fundraising event of Biden’s successful 2020 presidential election campaign.

“I have known President Biden and his family for three decades, and I was deeply honoured when he asked me to serve as his personal representative in Canada,” Cohen said in a statement following the ceremony.

The two countries, he said, are “connected not just by trade or treaties, but by shared values, by enduring friendships between our peoples, and by families on both sides of our border.”

Cohen said he’ll be focused initially on implementing elements of the so-called “road map” of shared U.S.-Canada priorities the two leaders hashed out in February after Biden was inaugurated.

But that agenda has been largely overtaken by a number of issues, including the EV tax credit, divergent approaches to travel restrictions at the Canada-U.S. border, disagreements over the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement and higher U.S. duties on Canadian softwood lumber.

Cohen’s arrival in Ottawa comes less than a month after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spent two days in Washington hoping to convince Biden to reconsider the tax credit plan.

Canadian industry experts say if passed by Congress, the incentives — worth up to US$12,500 to a new-car buyer if the vehicle was built on American soil with union labour — would deal a critical blow to the auto sector north of the border.