Canada is hoping Dominic Barton can help mend its frayed relationship with China, selecting the prominent businessman to be the country’s ambassador in Beijing.
The appointment was confirmed Wednesday at the Toronto Global Forum, where Barton was participating in a panel discussion about “leadership in an era of change.” In a nod to Chinese tradition, Barton briefly bowed to the applauding crowd when the announcement was made. He was not available for interviews and left shortly after his panel appearance.
“It is an honour to be appointed as Canada’s Ambassador to China,” Barton said via a statement to Yahoo Finance Canada. “The relationship between Canada and China is an important one, and I will work hard to represent our great country and to resolve the challenges that currently exist.”
Barton, chair of the finance minister’s advisory on economic growth, is a familiar face in the Liberal fold.
He is a giant in the world of business, with a long run at consultancy firm McKinsey and Company, where he was global managing partner.
He brings a wealth of experience in the region, including a stint in Shanghai as the McKinsey’s Asia chairman from 2004 to 2009. He also ran operations in Seoul, Korea from 2000 to 2004.
Both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland pointed to Barton’s experience in the region in statements released Wednesday afternoon.
“His years of experience in Asia, and the significant global economics expertise he has acquired over an impressive career, will make him a great choice to represent Canada – and Canadian interests – in China,” Trudeau said.
Freeland said Barton “is exceptionally well-suited to represent Canaada and advance Canadian interests at this critical time.”
The job has been vacant since January, when former ambassador to China John McCallum was shown the door for publicly speaking out of turn during the ongoing legal case against Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou.
The arrest triggered diplomatic tensions that led to the detention — in what is widely believed to be a case of retaliation— of Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig.
The feud has also escalated to Canadian canola and some meat exports to China being banned.
The Canadian Pork Council, which represents farmers across the country that have been affected by China’s export ban, released a statement Wednesday saying it was pleased with Barton’s nomination.
“The Canadian Pork Council anticipates a much-improved relationship with China following the nomination of Dominic Barton as the new ambassador to China,” the group said in a statement, pointing to a 2017 report he authored that was “well received” by the industry.
With files from Alicja Siekierska
Jessy Bains is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow him on Twitter @jessysbains.