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The U.S. Senate has confirmed Kelly Craft as the new U.S. ambassador to Canada, filling a key position that has been vacant since January.

GABRIELLA DEMCZUK/NYT

The U.S. Senate has confirmed Kelly Craft as the new U.S. ambassador to Canada, filling a key position that has been vacant since January.

The announcement comes just days before Canadian officials will begin formal negotiations with their American and Mexican counterparts to renegotiate the North American free-trade agreement.

Reaching a new deal is a political priority for U.S. President Donald Trump and Ms. Craft is expected to play an important role in the negotiations.

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U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who represents Kentucky where Ms. Craft is also from, issued a statement Thursday congratulating her on the appointment and confirmation.

"Our two nations share much more than a border; we have a heritage of trade and security relations that benefit us both," he said. "As a proven advocate for our national interests, Kelly will use her position to continue the long history of friendship between the United States and Canada. I appreciate her willingness to serve our country once again, and I know that she will make Kentucky proud."

Mr. McConnell, a Republican, had testified before the U.S. Senate foreign relations committee on July 20 in support of Ms. Craft's nomination.

Ms. Craft must still be sworn in. Following that, she will need to present her credentials to the Governor-General. It is not clear when she will officially assume the position.

Ms. Craft is one half of a Republican fundraising power couple who have raised millions for the party at the state and national level.

Her husband, Joe Craft, is the billionaire president of Alliance Resource Partners, the second-largest coal producer in the eastern United States.

Ms. Craft ran a marketing and consulting company in Lexington, Ky. The couple co-chaired the 2015 inauguration committee for Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin. They have also been involved in charitable works for education, donating $4-million (U.S.) to Kentucky's Morehead University to launch the Craft Academy for Excellence in Science and Mathematics.

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