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New U.S. ambassador to Canada seeks to strengthen trade relations Add to ...

The new U.S. ambassador to Canada wants to play the role of deal-broker, helping to complete cross-border investments, and dialling up premiers and U.S. governors to push trade.

And Bruce Heyman, the high-powered Chicago investment banker who has arrived as U.S. President Barack Obama’s envoy, is telling Canadians that there’s far more to trade relations than the approval of the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline – and suggested it should not be allowed to dominate relations.

Globe and Mail Update Apr. 09 2014, 6:00 AM EDT

Video: Meet new U.S. Ambassador Bruce Heyman and his wife Vicki

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In his first interview since taking office, Mr. Heyman, a 33-year Goldman Sachs veteran and major Democratic Party fundraiser, told The Globe and Mail he’s here to do business by promoting trade and investment. He vowed to get personally involved in deal-making and sees his priority as promoting trade in both directions.

“I think I can be helpful in that, especially across borders, when there are opportunities to do foreign direct investment, and when there are opportunities for trade,” Mr. Heyman said. “I think I can inject myself, and be an advocate for outcomes.”

And what matters is growth, not in which direction trade is flowing, he said: “I am an agnostic about whether there is more trade going north or more trade going south. I just want more.”

He promised to engage with state governors, provincial premiers and business people to make that happen in his first months on the job: “I’m going to call as many of them as I can … as early as I can,” he said.

It’s an emphasis that fits the background of the investment banker, who now finds himself in a very different, diplomatic world. Mr. Heyman, 57, and his wife, Vicki, a former Obama fundraiser and campaign official, have been in Canada for just over a week. On Tuesday, Mr. Heyman presented his credentials to Governor-General David Johnston, and had his first meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, before speaking to The Globe and Mail at the ambassador’s residence.

Mr. Heyman’s interest in business deals should make him the kind of Obama envoy that suits Mr. Harper – who has instructed Canadian diplomats to focus more on business. Trade often tops Canada’s agenda with Washington.

But officially, Ottawa is waiting for word on the Keystone XL pipeline – and Mr. Heyman said he can say nothing other than that the review process is continuing. But the new ambassador did weigh in by suggesting Keystone XL should not dominate Canada-U.S. relations, and arguing that North American energy issues have been miscast as as a hard choice between fighting climate change and expanding energy supplies.

“The mistake that’s happening is that people think of the word ‘or.’ They think of energy or the environment, economy or the environment. That word needs to be replaced with the word ‘and.’ We need to be able to have a strong economy. We need to deal with energy issues and the environment.”

The 51/2-year wait for a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry bitumen from Alberta’s oil sands to the U.S. Gulf Coast, has been a sour note in Canada-U.S. relations.

But Mr. Heyman said Keystone shouldn’t define the relationship.

“While this is an important issue to some – I’m not going to minimize that – we have a larger, more complex relationship than just this one issue,” he said. He added: “When it comes down to any one issue, it’s easy to get distracted, but it’s like the old saying, losing the forest for the trees. Right now the forest is really good.”

There have been suggestions of tension in Canada-U.S. relations, sparked by the Keystone delays and differences in ideology and style between Mr. Obama and Mr. Harper. Mr. Heyman said he hasn’t seen evidence of that, except in the news media.

In his 50 to 60 days of meetings with senior officials in Washington, they told him relations with Canada are among the best on the world, and “almost universally,” they say, “it’s better than it’s ever been,” he insisted.

His first meeting with Mr. Harper, with his wife Laureen Harper and Vicki Heyman present, was “incredibly warm,” he said.

“We were talking about the working relationship, how we’d be able to work together. We weren’t talking about any business other than the business of building a relationship,” he said. “And I had fantastic time.”

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