Canadian businesses should not give up on China despite ongoing political and economic tensions between the two countries, John McCallum is urging.

“Many of these businesses are there for the long term,” the former Canadian ambassador to China told BNN Bloomberg’s Amber Kanwar in his first interview since being ousted from his role with the Trudeau government in January. “This is a negative blip in the relationship. This may be a long blip, this may be a short blip, but they are there for the long term.”

“What I always say to Canadian business people is don’t just go to China, go to China often, because relationships [there] are key,” McCallum added. “It’s even more important to go to China when the going is tough because then you will show your commitment and the Chinese will remember that.”

Tensions between Canada and China have escalated over the arrest of Huawei Technologies Co. chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou. The Huawei executive was arrested in Vancouver last December at the behest of U.S. authorities and is now in the midst of an extradition hearing there.

McCallum said despite this dispute – which is thought to be the catalyst of trade actions like China’s ban on some Canadian canola and pork imports  – businesses should be focusing on nurturing their relationships with the world’s second-largest economy.  

“Certainly now is the time to engage with China,” McCallum said. “I think the particular aspects of it will depend on which industry. But the general rule is: don’t give up on China. I know [businesses] aren’t.

“Continue to engage China and Chinese customers and Chinese clients as much as possible during this difficult period because eventually this will be resolved and each business wants to be in a good position at that moment.”

McCallum was asked to resign in January from his position as Canada’s ambassador to China at the request of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after telling Chinese-language media Meng had “strong arguments” against extradition. He later apologized for his comments.

In his interview with BNN Bloomberg, McCallum said he is now on good terms with Trudeau and former colleagues.  

“It’s history now,” McCallum said. “I’m on very good terms with all former my colleagues in the government and I’m moving on.”  

On Tuesday, it was announced that McCallum has landed a new position as senior strategic advisor at Toronto-based law firm McMillan LLP. The firm touted McCallum’s “unparalleled experience in building mutually beneficial Sino-Canadian connections.”

Before becoming Canada’s envoy in China, McCallum served in various cabinet roles under former Prime Minister Paul Martin, was defence minister under former Prime Minister Jean Chretien, and was the chief economist at the Royal Bank of Canada.