BC forestry China trade mis­sion upbeat

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By LOUISA YOU in Van­cou­ver

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.”

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

BC’s trade mis­sion del­e­gates watch how Longhua Wooden Prod­ucts Co Ltd, uses BC wood at a fac­tory in Dalian, China.

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