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Canada names Freeland top diplomat in cabinet reshuffle

Update: January, 11/2017 - 13:00

OTTAWA  Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday named Chrystia Freeland as foreign minister, replacing Stephane Dion, a critic of US President-elect Donald Trump, in a cabinet shakeup.

Freeland, who was international trade minister, will still be in a position to help renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with the United States and Mexico if Trump makes good on a campaign promise to make changes or terminate the accord.

Dion, who announced he was retiring from political life after 21 years of public service, had openly criticised Trump during the US presidential campaign.

He had said Canada could not accept the billionaire Republican’s threat to ban Muslims from entering the United States.

The promotion of Freeland signals the importance Canada places in its privileged relationship with the United States, its neighbour to the south, no matter who is in the White House.

The polyglot Freeland, 48, is a former financial journalist, notably in Washington and Moscow. She distinguished herself last year as trade minister in her tenacious pursuit of a Canadian free-trade agreement with the European Union, which was signed on October 30.

In 2012, Freeland published a book, Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, that assailed crony capitalism, "political changes that benefit a group of well-connected insiders but don’t actually do much good for the rest of us."

Trudeau named Francois-Philippe Champagne, a member of the House of Commons who had served as parliamentary secretary to the finance minister, as Freeland’s replacement as international trade minister.

The liberal prime minister is an ardent supporter of international trade and free-trade agreements, unlike Trump, who blames trade for eroding US jobs.

Ahead of Trump’s January 20 inauguration, Trudeau has sent top aides in recent weeks to meet with him in an attempt to bolster bilateral relations.

Notable among the other cabinet changes was the appointment of Somali-born Ahmed Hussen as immigration minister, replacing John McCallum, who will become Canada’s ambassador to China.

In all, the shake-up involved six of the cabinet’s 30 positions, which remain divided evenly between men and women. — AFP

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