David McKean: Our politics have always been pretty tough

The 2016 Democratic National Convention, which wrapped up last Thursday, was the first one US Ambassador to Luxembourg David McKean has missed in the last 20 years.

Nevertheless, he said he was happy to have been in the Grand Duchy during this year’s presidential season.

“This campaign is going to be a tough one,” he said. “It has been very nasty, but I think it’ll get even nastier.”

Among his other accomplishments, in 2012 Ambassador McKean was a Senior Advisor to Hillary Clinton (then Secretary of State). Of course, he has been watching the campaign closely, but he has had plenty to keep him busy since being officially sworn into his role in March.

In addition to the usual community and business outreach–a Responsibility Panel at BGL BNP Paribas and an official visit to Esch-sur-Alzette, to name just a few–there was also Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent stopover in the Grand Duchy.

“Good to catch up”

Ambassador McKean and John Kerry have quite a history together, the former working as a staffer nearly 30 years ago when Kerry was starting off his senatorial career. And from 1999-2008, he was Chief of Staff in Kerry’s personal office.

During Kerry’s stay, the ambassador had him over for dinner which lasted “until about midnight. It was good to catch up with him,” Ambassador McKean said, adding: “It was a great weekend… He had terrific meetings with the Prime Minister, the Crown Prince, the Foreign Minister [Jean Asselborn].”

He also mentioned Kerry’s bike ride with Andy Schleck and Asselborn, adding, “[Kerry] just loved it.”

US-EU cooperation: more important than ever

The US Secretary of State’s visit was overshadowed by the terrorist attack in Nice and the attempted coup in Turkey. For Ambassador McKean, it has never been more important to have US-EU cooperation during these challenging times.

“There are so many important challenges out there, whether it’s Brexit or the migrant crisis or the fight against ISIL,” he said. “But I think President Obama has expressed this many times: the US is a strong country, the EU is a strong entity, and that together we can be successful.”

Nevertheless, he acknowledges that such collaboration will require some effort.

“We’re going to have to roll up our sleeves and think hard about how we approach [such challenges]. But I think it’s clear that we can, in the end, provide protection for our people and a way of life that all of us want, which is peace and growing economies, both here and in the US.”

With President Obama’s term coming to an end soon, it begs the question: will the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)–which has been through 14 rounds of negotiations thus far–ever see the light of day?