BC forestry China trade mission upbeat
Despite the slowdown of China’s economy, the head of a recently returned British Columbia forestry trade mission to China and Japan is optimistic about prospects for wood products in the province’s second and third most-important markets.
“We’ve had very significant growth in those markets over the last number of years... Currently, we’re seeing a bit of a slowdown in the market over there due to the economic conditions in China… [but] we still see tremendous opportunities in that market for our industry,” said Steve Thomson, B.C.’s minister of Forests, Land and Natural Resource Operations.
The expansion and development of Asian markets for B.C. lumber is a large part of the forest sector’s recovery from the worldwide recession. Jobs have increased 7 per cent and exports 20 percent. In 2014, B.C.’s forest industry supported more than 146,000 direct and indirect jobs across the province, and forest products accounted for 36 percent of all exports. The forest sector represents $12 billion d of the province’s GDP.
In 2014, China received 25 percent of B.C.’s softwood lumber exports totalling $1.43 billion, and Japan received 13 percent for $731 million. The US is the No 1 market.
Thomson led the annual B.C. Forestry Asia Trade Mission from Nov 27-Dec 5. . It was his fourth trade mission to the two countries as Forests minister since being assigned to the task by Premier Christy. The trade delegation included more than 30 senior executives from forest companies and associations in B.C.
Thompson said the annual trip to China and Japan is made “to make sure that we can continue to help build markets for our industry in those very important areas.”
Trade missions are critical to the provincial strategy to secure new investment. Canada Starts Here: The BC Jobs Plan, which seeks to manage economic uncertainty, has named “expanding markets for B.C. products and services, particularly in Asia,” a fundamental pillar.
International trade missions are “vital for creating and maintaining strong bonds between the B.C. forest industry and our partners in overseas markets,” said Susan Yurkovich, the president and CEO of the Council of Forest Industries.
“These trade missions allow us to tell our story directly to our customers, reminding them that when they buy B.C. wood, they’re not only getting the highest quality products in the world, but they also know that those products come from sustainably managed forests,” she said.
As for the international market, Thomson said that although the US is B.C.’s largest market `` one of the very important approaches we’ve taken for the forest industry in British Columbia is to build a diversified market so we have lots of opportunities… We want to continue to build value and continue to build opportunities for our industry.”
One of the key approaches to building these opportunities is to “move wood up the value chain in the markets,” Thomson said. The sector is looking to expand interest in new forms of construction to make B.C.’s softwood products even more valuable.
The visits in China and Japan included stops at development facilities in Dalian and Tokyo. In Japan, delegation members visited the new BC Wood office and showroom, and took tours of facilities built with B.C. wood products, including a “five-story, elderly care facility being built using an innovative building system developed in B.C.,” according to a news release.
The delegation also met with government and industry officials in both countries and buyers and stakeholders.
Mission members attended and spoke at the Sino- Canada Wood Conference and with China’s ministry of Housing and Urban and Rural Development. Thomson signed a letter of intent with the Chinese Society for Urban Studies, and renewed memorandums of understanding with the Shanghai Municipal Housing Construction and Development Centre and the Shanghai Science and Technology Committee.
Minister of Natural Resources Canada Jim Carr said, “The Government of Canada is committed to working with our provincial and international partners to help address environmental challenges.”
BC’s trade mission delegates watch how Longhua Wooden Products Co Ltd, uses BC wood at a factory in Dalian, China.