World

Bruce Heyman, U.S. ambassador nominee, keen to expand trade

Bruce Heyman, nominated to be the next U.S. ambassador to Canada, told a Senate nomination hearing in Washington today that he will use his Goldman Sachs experience to foster trade and investment on both sides of the border.

Bruce Heyman said little about Keystone pipeline at hearing, pledges to expand environmental ties

Bruce Heyman, a partner at Goldman Sachs in Chicago, is U.S. President Barack Obama's pick to be the next ambassador to Canada. Heyman and his wife Vicki are well-known Obama fundraisers. His nomination hearing is on Wednesday. (Daniel Dubois and Kerry Dahlen/vanderbilt.edu)

Bruce Heyman, nominated to be the next U.S. ambassador to Canada, said little about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline during his nomination hearing in Washington today, but pledged to deepen economic and environmental ties between Canada and the United States.

Heyman was asked few questions when he appeared at the Senate's foreign relations committee along with the nominees for ambassador to Colombia and Chile on Wednesday. But Senator John McCain wanted to know his position on one of the biggest bilateral issues that lies ahead in 2014.

“There’s a process underway and when that process is concluded, I think that I will be the person on the ground that will be communicating with the Canadians that decision," Heyman said.

The TransCanada pipeline would carry oil from Alberta to refineries in Texas, and President Barack Obama's administration is still considering whether to allow it. 

"So you have no position because there’s a process that’s been going on for several years?” McCain asked Heyman.

"That’s correct,” Heyman replied.  

Bruce Heyman, chosen by President Barack Obama to be the next U.S. ambassador to Canada, appeared before the Senate foreign affairs committee Wednesday, December 11, 2013, for his nomination hearing. (U.S. Senate)

In his opening statement to the committee, the Chicago business executive said he would use his years of experience at Goldman Sachs to help expand trade between Canada and the U.S.

“If confirmed, my top priority will be enhancing our economic partnership," he said. "I've spent my career constructing business relationships and helping investors see possibilities. If confirmed, I will work to foster trade and investment that creates jobs on both sides of our common border.”

Obama officially nominated Heyman, 55, in September after months of speculation that he was the pick for the Ottawa posting.

Senator Robert Menendez brought up the issue of intellectual property rights as it relates to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations, and said Canada hasn't been supportive of all of the U.S. efforts to protect IP rights. He said it is concerning that Canada and the U.S. aren't always on the same page, and asked what Heyman would do as an ambassador about the discrepancies.

"I will take this issue to the Canadian government," he responded. "Doing business with Canada is an important part of the role I plan to take as ambassador to Canada and that will be my No. 1 mission, is expanding our economic footprint. But unless we have the intellectual property protections for our companies, it will make it incredibly difficult to expand those relationships.”

Heyman major Obama fundraiser

Heyman is managing director of private wealth management at Goldman Sachs and has worked with the firm since 1980. He and his wife Vicki are known as major fundraisers for both of Obama's presidential campaigns and they were members of his national finance committee. Vicki Heyman was also a member of the Illinois finance committee for Obama's election campaign.

According to the New York Times, the Heymans have raised more than $1.7 million for Obama since 2007.

In addition to deepening economic ties between Canada and the U.S., Heyman said he would work to expand environmental partnerships to protect natural resources in both countries. He also talked about the need for a safe and efficient border and said he respects Canadian troops who serve alongside American ones, especially in Afghanistan.

"More than any other country in the world, our relatationship with Canada has the most direct and immediate impact on America’s security and prosperity," said Heyman, whose wife and three children also attended the hearing.

"I feel honoured to be nominated, and if confirmed I pledge to serve responsibly and with integrity," he said. 

Heyman's name first surfaced in April as Obama's choice to replace David Jacobson, also from Chicago, who concluded his four-year term in Ottawa in July.

During the long delay in announcing a nomination for the ambassador position, there was speculation that Heyman's complex investment portfolio may have disqualified him from the job during the vetting process or led him to lose interest in the appointment.

In the absence of a quick replacement for Jacobson, American diplomat Richard Sanders has been acting as chargé d’affaires at the American embassy.

If Heyman's nomination is approved by the committee, it will then be voted on by the Senate.

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