Biden’s Ottawa whisperer – POLITICO

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However Cohen, who arrived in Ottawa on Dec. 1, has much more on his plate than potatoes: The 2 nations are in the course of critical conversations — if now not outright disputes — over lumber, dairy, oil pipelines, China, protection spending, crucial minerals, virtual taxes, gun smuggling and local weather alternate.

As Biden’s envoy, he’s the designated level consumer in repairing a broken friendship.

Canadians were counting at the new president to appease tensions after 4 years of turbulence below Donald Trump. Biden’s predecessor threatened to tear up the North American Unfastened Industry Settlement, slapped price lists on Canadian metal and aluminum, and lobbed public insults at Top Minister Justin Trudeau.

However on his first day in place of business, Biden canceled the Keystone XL pipeline venture and vowed to give a boost to made-in-The usa laws. Biden’s “Construct Again Higher” marketing campaign developed into regulation that integrated a tax credit score for American-made electrical automobiles.

All of it however prompt a business battle.

The connection is a huge deal. Canada is The usa’s most sensible buying and selling spouse and No. 1 export marketplace, the place 17.5 % of all world U.S. items exports went closing 12 months.

Even now, with the U.S. midterms ultimate in, concern nonetheless lessons thru Canadian industry circles over what they see because the president’s protectionist time table.

POLITICO sat down with Cohen to raised perceive what he’s in Ottawa to do. We additionally spoke to lobbyists and industry leaders about that paintings and the stumbling blocks in the best way.

Frictions are some distance from one-sided.

The American industry group has considerations about Trudeau’s risk to impose a unilateral tax on virtual giants, maximum of which can be U.S. corporations.

The nations have additionally been at odds over what the U.S. has referred to as Canada’s still-too-low protection spending, particularly as NATO furiously hands Ukraine towards Russia. They usually’ve now not at all times been aligned on post-Covid control of the border, the place closing 12 months $2.6 billion value of business moved backward and forward day by day.

On most sensible of that, longer-running disputes over dairy and softwood lumber have lately flared up.

Trudeau — who raised Canada’s EV frustration with Biden all through a D.C. discuss with closing fall — were involved concerning the path of the brand new management even earlier than Cohen arrived at the scene.

Days after Cohen became up in Ottawa, Trudeau officially tasked a number of of his Cupboard ministers to have interaction the U.S. on “bilateral business problems and protectionist measures.”

The ministers had their directives. So did the brand new ambassador.

Gritty roots, ‘rock celebrity’ connections

Cohen made his identify as a public servant whilst operating as leader of workforce within the Nineties for then-Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell. Even if he labored at the back of the scenes, Cohen emerged as a outstanding determine in a town that used to be suffering to tug itself out of tricky occasions and a budgetary sinkhole.

The Philadelphia process led him to different positions — as spouse for Ballard, Spahr, Andrews & Ingersoll and later as Comcast’s leader lobbyist in Washington.

Alongside the best way, Cohen constructed a Rolodex of tough contacts — Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Biden — and befriended lawmakers who had been on their manner up.

He advanced right into a political fundraiser with “rock celebrity standing” in Washington.

“I’ve been right here such a lot,” then-president Obama mentioned of Cohen’s Philadelphia house all through a Democratic fundraiser there in 2013, in step with a profile within the Philadelphia Inquirer. “The one factor I haven’t finished on this home is have (Passover) seder dinner.”

It seems that, Cohen and his spouse Rhonda understand how to throw a birthday party.

Rendell, Cohen’s former boss who later become Pennsylvania’s governor, tells POLITICO he’s attended nearly all the large fundraisers the Cohens have hosted at their area, together with one for Biden in 2019 at the day he introduced his presidential marketing campaign.

“I’m positive she’ll mirror it in Ottawa, however Rhonda Cohen makes the most productive pigs in a blanket I’ve ever tasted,” Rendell mentioned. “And I might believe myself a professional.”

Philly legal professional Stephen Cozen, Cohen’s pal of a few 45 years, has been a normal on the gatherings.

“Now not best nice events, however we’ve raised heaps of cash,” mentioned Cozen, who additionally spoke of Cohen’s community. “His dating with Barack is a superb one. … He’s very, very just about Joe and has recognized Joe longer.”

Cozen mentioned Cohen helped lift cash for the ones “who did paintings and helped the town or the state” even supposing there have been variations philosophically or on coverage.

The ambassador should put politics apart — he best has a couple of years to get the U.S.-Canada dating again heading in the right direction.

‘Feared in a great way’

Cohen is not only a bundler. He’s established himself as an issue solver.

Rendell says people who come to Cohen’s conferences higher be able for the reason that ambassador is understood for his meticulous preparation.

He recalled Cohen’s an important function in serving to pressure down town spending in Philadelphia for the then-mayor.

They arrived in place of business with the town’s budget a multitude. The demanding situations integrated a $250 million deficit on a $1.6 billion working price range that compelled them to seek for any manner to save cash with out affecting products and services within the already overtaxed town, Rendell mentioned.

To search out tactics to slash prices, Cohen chaired conferences with particular person town commissioners accountable for the whole thing from policing to sanitation.

“The commissioners discovered in no time that they couldn’t shuck and jive David,” Rendell mentioned. “David learn all their subject matter, all their experiences, all their information and he knew them in addition to they did getting in. … That made him revered and admired by means of the workforce,” Rendell mentioned. “Additionally a little bit bit feared — however feared in a great way.”

However for all of Cohen’s observe at nighttime arts of lobbying and budget-trimming, the brand new ambassador has introduced his time up north with a appeal offensive.

TimBit international relations

After arriving in Ottawa in December 2021 apparently minus a wintry weather coat, Biden’s envoy went to paintings setting up his bona fides.

He immersed himself in Canadiana — sampling native bagels, visiting Tim Hortons, shedding the puck at heart ice. “A (scrumptious) ceremony of passage for U.S. Ambassadors to Canada!” Cohen wrote in a single social media submit the place he sampled deep-fried dough from a BeaverTails shack.

Cohen even graciously misplaced a football guess he initiated with Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S.

Right through the ones early weeks, as Ottawa used to be coping with its newest wave of Covid-19, Cohen’s Twitter feed documented digital and in-person conferences with a lineup of key Cupboard ministers, together with Chrystia Freeland, Mélanie Joly, Marie-Claude Bibeau, François-Philippe Champagne, Jean-Yves Duclos, Marco Mendicino and Jonathan Wilkinson.

He sat with industry leaders, premiers and outstanding gamers from Trudeau’s orbit, like his former main secretary Gerry Butts and previous central banker Mark Carney.

Assembly by means of assembly, Cohen is on a undertaking to handle what he describes as “nearly the harm” led to by means of the former management.

“I will be able to’t inform you how again and again I’ve been requested the query, on or off the report, of — simply the place does Canada stand with the USA?” mentioned Cohen.

“There’s a thirst for a recovery of the entire friendship and whole partnership and whole ally-ship. … And I’ve form of grafted that onto my process.”

It hasn’t helped that, a 12 months and a part since taking place of business, Biden himself has but to discuss with Canada, however Cohen insists his boss is “keen” to make the commute. Discovering the fitting second has been a problem for a presidency that has coincided with the pandemic, border restrictions and Russia’s battle on Ukraine.

Trudeau, after all, has met with the president a number of occasions at the global level at summits such because the G-7, G-20 and NATO. The high minister met Biden in D.C. closing fall, a couple of weeks earlier than he issued the protectionism-fighting directives to his Cupboard.

On that commute, Trudeau’s overarching goal used to be to chase away on what Canada referred to as the president’s “discriminatory” proposed tax incentive designed to inspire U.S. customers to shop for American-made electrical automobiles.

The high minister warned the transfer may just inflict important injury at the auto sector in each nations.

From there, the trouble ran thru diplomatic channels in Ottawa and Washington.

Flavio Volpe, the plainspoken, influential head of the Automobile Portions Producers’ Affiliation, mentioned for the primary time in years his lobbying paintings integrated going throughout the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa.

It used to be a transfer from the Trump years when, he mentioned, many Canadian lobbyists went without delay to Washington with their lawsuits.

“[Cohen’s] predecessor had an overly sturdy private dating with the previous president — however the former president used to be a nutjob,” Volpe mentioned of former U.S. ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft.

“I had 0 self belief that any of [our concerns] had a sympathetic ear there.”

The bilateral EV red meat used to be resolved past due closing month, due to a metamorphosis to a provision in the $700 billion spending deal struck between Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Senate Majority Chief Chuck Schumer. The brand new regulation extends the blank automobile credit score to these made in North The usa.

However there are new considerations that the Inflation Relief Act may just threaten Canadian competitiveness with its $370 billion funding in blank era. Canada, trade advocates argue, should spice up its investments in cleantech to take care of.

Ottawa, for its phase, has irked the U.S. with a few of its protectionist proposals.

The Trudeau govt, as an example, has threatened to head it on my own with a virtual products and services tax towards tech giants must the OECD fail to release a multilateral manner by means of Jan. 1, 2024. U.S. Industry Consultant Katherine Tai has expressed “critical considerations” concerning the plan and the U.S. Chamber of Trade has referred to as the Canadian proposal “discriminatory” and in violation of business agreements.

Now not the whole thing, after all, is a slow-motion teach ruin between two economies taking a look to give protection to their home industries and customers.

There also are many alternatives for the neighbors to paintings in combination. Biden and Trudeau launched a “highway map” within the early days of the presidency that commits to deeper collaboration in key spaces, together with local weather alternate, protection and demanding minerals.

On China, Cohen’s already made headlines in Canada for pronouncing the U.S. used to be taking a look ahead to seeing its neighbor’s up to date China coverage.

The long-awaited framework is predicted within the coming months as a part of Canada’s Indo-Pacific technique.

When requested if the Biden management wish to see a more-assertive stance in opposition to Beijing from Ottawa, Cohen mentioned it’s no secret Canada has had a “chummier” dating with China than the U.S.

He added that Canada, after all, wishes area to resolve its place.

“A part of being buddies and allies is that we every must admire the sovereignty of our nations,” he mentioned, including there’s “a large number of dialog” between the 2 governments on China.

First impressions

Within the early days as ambassador, Cohen moved temporarily to handle any cold-shoulder emotions from The usa.

He made the case all through one early dialogue with industry leaders closing January that the cross-border bond wasn’t just about in as dangerous form as they may have heard.

“He used to be very transparent that the connection between Canada and the U.S. is in point of fact necessary and [said], ‘Don’t consider the whole thing you learn that it’s now not just right,’” Dennis Darby, president and CEO of Canadian Producers & Exporters, advised POLITICO about his preliminary assembly with Cohen.

Just right or dangerous, many in Ottawa really feel the connection has transform much less a real partnership and extra transactional.

“When that occurs, then we center of attention on irritants,” mentioned Perrin Beatty, president of the Canadian Chamber of Trade, who additionally attended the assembly.

Mark Agnew, the Chamber’s senior vp of coverage and govt members of the family, mentioned closing week that protectionism very a lot stays a priority with the Biden management because it advances on “Purchase The usa” and “Purchase American.”

“It’s simply been step by step tightening the screws,” Agnew mentioned. “I don’t assume this is other than every other U.S. president, but it surely simply continues alongside that very same trajectory.”

Canadians are conscious that Biden’s precedence is to navigate home pressures forward of q4’s midterms and the 2024 presidential election. There’s worry business has already been sidelined.

In dialog with POLITICO, Cohen driven again. The ambassador leaned into an issue that’s nearly unquestionably been on repeat since his arrival in Ottawa. “I in fact don’t assume the USA has followed a protectionist angle towards Canada,” mentioned Cohen, who is understood for his consideration to even the best coverage main points.

He then went deeper into the weeds.

Cohen stressed out Purchase American and Purchase The usa best practice to govt procurement, and that they’re designed to focus on China and autocratic nations, now not Canada. He notes that Canada is the No. 1 buying and selling spouse for 30 U.S. states. “That doesn’t sound or really feel like a protectionist manner or angle between the 2 nations,” he mentioned.

Some admit protectionism is a two-way side road.

Maryscott Greenwood, who heads the Canadian American Trade Council, famous that protectionism exists on each side of the border.

“It’s now not a uniquely American phenomenon — and it’s now not a in particular contemporary phenomenon,” she mentioned in an interview. “It isn’t extra President Biden than his predecessors. It is like a legislation of physics on the planet, and it’s one thing that we need to navigate.”

Greenwood mentioned Canadians will know the place they stand in Washington, due to Cohen’s taste.

“He’s a little bit bit tricky — I don’t see him as any more or less a pushover,” Greenwood mentioned of Cohen. “He’s a significant suggest, I suppose I might say, for the perspective of the U.S. That’s just right. That’s what you wish to have in that place.”

Cohen a minimum of is putting in place the paintings at the floor. His Trump-appointed predecessor used to be criticized for spending a lot of her tenure within the U.S. as an alternative of Lornado, the U.S. ambassador’s place of abode in Ottawa.

Craft left the function in 2019, and the submit languished for a 12 months and a part and not using a alternative. That stung a bit of.

Cohen recognizes the Canada-U.S. dating “suffered” from now not having a Senate-confirmed ambassadorial presence in Ottawa for see you later.

“I understood the phrases however I didn’t perceive the have an effect on of what has took place over the past 5 years,” he mentioned of the tensions created whilst Trump used to be in place of business. “The ones problems had been magnified in Canada as a result of the closeness of the connection.”



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