OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Canadian government announced four new senior diplomatic appointments to the United States on Wednesday, building on its push to increase its political outreach with its neighbor to the south ahead of NAFTA negotiations later this month.
With the first round of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) talks expected to start in Washington on Aug. 16, Canada also announced a new NAFTA council that will provide advice and expertise for Canada's negotiations.
Canada's chief negotiator in the NAFTA talks is expected to be Steve Verheul, who was the lead negotiator on the recently agreed to trade agreement between Canada and the European Union (CETA).
The council announced on Wednesday includes a number of politicians, and industry and private sector experts, including the chief executive officer of Bank of Montreal (BMO.TO), William Downe, and the head of auto parts maker Linamar Corp (LNR.TO), Linda Hasenfratz.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland also named new consuls general in San Francisco, Seattle and Atlanta, as well as a new deputy ambassador in Washington.
Since U.S. President Donald Trump's inauguration, Canadian politicians and officials have made a series of trips to meet with U.S. lawmakers and state governors to discuss the importance of trade between the two countries.
Canada, whose largest trading partner is the United States, hopes that the direct outreach emphasizing the economic benefits of trade for both countries will strengthen its position as it renegotiates NAFTA, which Trump has threatened to walk away from.
Kirsten Hillman, who was named Canada's new deputy ambassador in Washington, was Canada's chief negotiator at talks on the proposed 12-nation Trans Pacific Partnership pact.
Reporting by Leah Schnurr; Editing by Phil Berlowitz