New U.S. ambassador presents credentials in Ottawa
Published Friday, October 2, 2009 10:42PM EDT
The new U.S. Ambassador says Canada could be exempted from the controversial "Buy American" policy, if provinces open up their contracts to companies south of the border.
"I look forward to participating in those discussions," David Jacobson told reporters just after a ceremony officially welcoming him to Canada Friday.
"Hopefully we can move this forward in a way that is beneficial to both countries," he said.
The controversial clause in the U.S. financial stimulus bill blocks foreign firms from bidding on contracts at both the state and municipal levels
Jacobson said officials are considering a proposal from International Trade Minister Stockwell Day, to strike agreements between provinces and states.
If Day's proposal is accepted and reciprocity deals are agreed to, companies from both Canada and the U.S. would be able to bid on infrastructure projects on either side of the border.
Jacobson officially took his position as the new Ambassador to Canada, after Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean formally accepted his credentials at Rideau Hall.
Later in the day Jacobsen met briefly with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in his Langevin Block office.
U.S. President Barack Obama nominated Jacobson, a lawyer, for the position in June, and he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in September.
At a news conference on Friday morning, a smiling Jacobson said his intention is to visit every province in Canada within the next weeks.
"I think it's very important that before I start making decisions and trying to do things, that I have a good and firm understanding of the country and of its people," he said.
"And I'll also tell you, just on a personal level, to see the beauty and the grandeur of the country. And that's going to be my first priority."
Jacobson said Canada was his first choice of post because he wants to focus on trade and energy.
He also said he was a long-time hockey fan, especially of his hometown Chicago Blackhawks.
"I will tell you, I'm old enough that I was a fan when the Blackhawks had Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita and Glenn Hall, and Frank Mahovlich played for the Maple Leafs, and Maurice Richard played for the Canadiens," said Jacobson.
Close ties to the Oval Office
Former ambassador to Canada Jim Blanchard says Jacobson's close ties with Obama will make him a useful ally for Ottawa in negotiating a Canadian exemption to the "Buy American" policy.
"I think David is going to do a great job, not just because he knew a lot about Canada but he's very close to the president," Blanchard told CTV Power Play host Tom Clark.
Jacobson has been working in the White House for several months and he and Obama share their hometown of Chicago.
Blanchard said Jacobson's big challenge will be dealing with "nitpicking" trade issues that he says tend to be brought up by Canadians during negotiations.
"We need to elevate the relationship and deal with big issues," he said. "When Canadians do complain about smaller things we tend to turn Canada off."
Reporters also asked Jacobson about his knowledge of Canada's intention to end the combat mission in Afghanistan after 2011.
"That's an issue that's up to the Canadian people," he said. "As the president has made clear, what he's concerned about is Canada's role in 2009 and 2010, and I'll stick with the President's views."
Colin Robinson, a former Canadian consul general to the U.S., told Power Play that the country has much to learn from Canada's experience in Afghanistan.
"The U.S. should look to Canada for advice. We can bring advice to the table that the president can appreciate," he said.
Faid Shafiyev, the ambassador-designate for Azerbaijan, also presented his credentials to the governor general on Friday, as did Else Berit Eikeland of Norway, and Matthias Brinkmann of the European Commission.