U.S. Senate approves Kelly Knight Craft as ambassador to Canada ahead of NAFTA talks
Republican fundraiser still needs to present credentials in Canada before appointment begins
Kelly Knight Craft is one step closer to officially becoming the next American ambassador to Canada.
The Republican fundraiser's nomination was approved by the U.S. Senate Thursday afternoon in a unanimous voice vote.
Knight Craft was one of 65 appointments voted on by U.S. lawmakers today, as they prepared to go on summer break.
The timing of the vote was seen as important, since American officials want Knight Craft in place before NAFTA renegotiations formally begin on Aug. 16.
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If she had not been approved today, her nomination would have been put on hold until at least Sept. 5, when lawmakers return to Washington.
Knight Craft still has more to do before taking on her new role, including presenting her credentials to the Governor General in Canada.
A date has not yet been set to complete the process.
While the U.S. has a team of senior trade negotiators in place for the NAFTA talks, Knight Craft is expected to support those officials.
During her Senate confirmation hearing, she also pledged to work closely with the U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross on trade-related issues.
"I will work tirelessly to further enhance our strong economic partnership," she told the Senate foreign relations committee during her July appearance.
"I believe we can do even better. If confirmed, I will seek new opportunities to foster further growth to create more jobs for both countries, while promoting free and fair trade to ensure that American businesses and workers can compete on a level playing field," Knight Craft said during her opening statement.
Ottawa has reacted positively to Knight Craft's appointment.
The longtime Republican has deep ties to senior members of the party, including Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan.
She and her husband, billionaire coal magnate Joe Craft, agreed to support Donald Trump during the election campaign, when he promised to keep both McConnell and Ryan in their respective roles if he won.
The Liberal government has conducted extensive outreach with U.S. politicians at all levels, and Knight Craft's connections to powerful Republicans is seen as a good thing.