Canadian Consul General Nadia Theodore will depart Atlanta to take up a new role in the private sector after two decades of public service culminating with her posting as the country’s top diplomat for the Southeast U.S.
Ms. Theodore will join Maple Leaf Foods as senior vice president of government of industry and global government relations. The food giant based in Mississauga, Ontario, employs 13,000 people and works across the U.S., Canada and Asia.
On Twitter, Ms. Theodore suggested it would be a bit surreal working for a company that was a fixture in her childhood:
🙏🏿😭☺️ by well wishes! As a👧🏿, @MapleLeafFoods was synonymous w/ family summer BBQ, AM bustle+ everything joyful in b/een. Back then, couldn’t have imagined the opportunity to sit at the senior leadership table of this iconic 🇨🇦 brand. I am truly my ancestors’ wildest dreams💫💫 pic.twitter.com/wYuD9WTdfo
— Nadia Theodore (@Nadia_Theodore) July 30, 2020
She won’t join Maple Leaf Foods until October, but her time in Atlanta will come to a close in the next few weeks. The pandemic will prevent a diplomat known for her outgoing nature and constant community engagement from getting an in-person send-off after three years in a city she now considers a “second home.”
“I am sorry to be departing under the current situation, as it prohibits me from meeting with you one last time in person. I encourage you to remain in contact with my office, who will be more than pleased to connect you with my eventual successor, once named,” she wrote in an email to contacts of the consulate this week.
In the note, the trade negotiator and policy expert took pride in deepening the economic integration during the negotiation period on the USMCA, the successor deal to the North American Free Trade Agreement, which entered into force July 1.
Calling it a “win-win-win” for the three partner nations of the U.S., Mexico and Canada, she pointed to the way USMCA modernized the quarter-century-old deal.
“As you know, the bilateral relationship between Canada and the United States is of utmost importance. There are no two nations which depend on each other more for their mutual prosperity and security than Canada and the United States. I like to think that we had a small role to play in this and, although I will be leaving the Government of Canada for a new opportunity, I will continue to work to strengthen bilateral ties,” Ms. Theodore wrote, adding that trade would be a salve for the economic wounds of the pandemic.
“I firmly believe that the USMCA will be a source of strength to help us all rebuild our economies in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our resilient supply chains for essential medical equipment has already been proof of this.”
With the so-called “new NAFTA” complete, it’s almost difficult to appreciate how uncertain things remained when Ms. Theodore arrived in late 2017.
President Donald Trump was still playing hardball after threatening repeatedly to rip up the deal, and the sixth round of talks had just taken place. But Ms. Theodore, a self-described “eternal optimist,” dedicated herself to ensuring that her partners in the Southeast U.S. got the “real story” about the benefits of cross-border trade.
She became a fixture at trade panels, never shying away from delivering pointed rebuttals (softened with patented Canadian charm) to those less informed on the intricacies of things like tariffs and rules of origin. Export Development Canada also opened an Atlanta office under her watch.
She has also been a frequent featured speaker at events on women’s leadership and minority advancement. Most recently, she gave a synopsis of the Black Lives Matter movement from a Canadian perspective. [Read: Yes, there are black people in Canada]
Maple Leaf Foods said in a statement that Ms. Theodore is to replace Rory McAlpine, who will retire after 15 years with the company. Ms. Theodore’s international bona fides helped her land the appointment: Before coming to Atlanta she spent three years as Canada’s counsellor to the World Trade Organization in Geneva.
“Nadia’s deep experience in global issues, her understanding of government and her diplomatic skills will be tremendous value to Maple Leaf Foods,” said Michael McCain, president and CEO.
Ms. Theodore has a law degree from the University of London and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science at Carleton University in Ottawa. Earlier in her career, she spent time as an analyst at the Aboriginal Policy Directorate in Ottawa and Winnipeg, and as a charities officer at the Canadian Revenue Agency.
See her comments during a recent conversation with Global Atlanta here:
Read more from her engagements with Global Atlanta:
Consular Conversation – March 2018: In Touchy Times for Trade, Canada Sends ‘Eternal Optimist’ to the South
Consular Conversation – May 2019: Despite Trade Challenges, U.S.-Canada Ties ‘Too Big to Fail’
Macon International Symposium – Jan. 2019: From Forestry to Clay, Trade Policy Hits Home in Middle Georgia