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Canada's point man in Washington, key Trudeau adviser, resigns


Ambassador to the United States David MacNaughton and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland meet with U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch (R-ID) at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Feb. 6, 2019. - Mary F. Calvert / Reuters
Ambassador to the United States David MacNaughton and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland meet with U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch (R-ID) at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Feb. 6, 2019. - Mary F. Calvert / Reuters

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unexpectedly announced on Thursday that David MacNaughton, the Canadian ambassador to the United States, who played a pivotal role in the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), will leave Washington at the end of August.

MacNaughton became ambassador in March 2016 and had an open mandate. Due to his importance in trade negotiations with Canada’s closest and biggest partner, he had cabinet level status in Ottawa. MacNaughton was also an adviser in Trudeau’s 2015 campaign.

In a letter, MacNaughton said his decision to leave was not taken “quickly or lightly” and that he “had long planned to complete my work” before Canada’s national election on Oct. 21,particularly after the United States lifted its tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum products earlier this year.

“It is with great affection and gratitude and of course,considerable regret that I have accepted Ambassador David MacNaughton’s decision to leave Washington, D.C., at summer’s end, to return to his home in Toronto, and take up new challenges in the private sector,” Trudeau said in a statement.

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, who worked closed with MacNaughton during the NAFTA talks, praised him for his “steady hand,” “insight, intelligence, and grit as a negotiator.”

Canada’s deputy U.S. ambassador, Kirsten Hillman, will become acting ambassador following MacNaughton’s departure, Trudeau said.

(Reporting by Steve Scherer, Kelsey Johnson; Editing byBernadette Baum and Steve Orlofsky)

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