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Canada’s new ambassador to China authored landmark report on agri-food’s potential

Dominic Barton’s appointment welcomed by farm organization representatives

The appointment of Dominic Barton as Canadian ambassador to China was welcomed by farm leaders but the former business leader and university chancellor will have a lot of issues to deal with besides blocked shipments of canola, pork and beef.

The arrest of a Chinese executive in Vancouver on a U.S. arrest warrant soured relations between Ottawa and Beijing leading to some suspensions of Canadian canola, pork and beef imports. Two Canadians are being held in Chinese prisons on trumped-up charges.

In 2016, Barton, then head of Canada’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth, released a report that urged the federal government to use agri-food as a pilot project for boosting the economic growth of seven other sectors.

“The aspirational vision — being the trusted global food leader — must be the lens through which we assess all relevant policies and strategies,” the Barton report said.

Since then its goal of $75 billion in Canadian agri-food exports by 2025 has been a key component of discussions on the future of the sector.

Canadian Federation of Agriculture past president Ron Bonnett helped get Barton interested in looking at agri-food’s potential. He sent a message of congratulation to Barton saying his “knowledge of the importance of having solid relationships should ensure sound economic partnerships between Canada and China and serve us well. I am particularly pleased with the interest and support you have shown for the opportunities in agriculture sectors and in your new position you will be able to help nurture those opportunities. All the best in this new adventure.”

“Given the importance and recent uncertainty of our trade relationship, it is crucial to have an experienced voice in China to stand up for our sector and help reopen the markets we count on,” Grain Growers of Canada president Jeff Nielsen said in a release.

“We’ve consistently emphasized the importance of appointing a new ambassador as part of the solution to resolving trade issues with China,” Canadian Canola Growers Association CEO Rick White said in a release. “It’s good to see that recommendations coming out of the Canola Working Group are being implemented.”

When Barton’s appointment was announced Sept. 4, he was about to speak at the Toronto Global Forum. When he was introduced to the crowd of business and trade experts, the crowd broke into a loud round of applause.

He has an impressive CV. He’s Global Managing Partner Emeritus, McKinsey & Company and the chancellor of the University of Waterloo. He has lived in Korea and Shanghai and is an adjunct professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing. He also holds eight honorary doctorates from academic institutions around the world.

Barton succeeds John McCallum, a former Liberal MP who was removed from the post in January.

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