Canada is a trading nation.  We export over $454 billion of products around the world every year and forest products make up a significant percentage of total Canadian exports.  In fact, through much of the 20th century, forest products were the dominant export from Canada.

As part of our work in Ottawa, FPAC represents the forest industry’s position on various trade issues and helps our member companies with trade concerns.  So I was both pleased and honoured to be asked to join Minister of International Trade Ed Fast at a private luncheon for the outgoing Ambassador of Japan, Kaoru Ishikawa.

Maintaining good relations with countries is an important part of the work of Foreign Affairs while the Department of International Trade focuses on business relationships.  So it was appropriate that the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Morris Rosenberg and the Deputy Minister of International Trade Simon Kennedy joined Minister Fast at the farewell luncheon for the Japanese Ambassador.

International Trade Minister Ed Fast (centre) hosted a luncheon for outgoing Japanese Ambassador His Excellency Kaoru Ishikawa.  The small private gathering at the Pearson Building in Ottawa included two Federal Deputy Ministers, three Ambassadors, David Lindsay from FPAC and John Manley from the Canadian Council of Chief Executive Officers.

Japan and Canada share a long history in lumber trade that dates back to the Meiji Period around the turn of the 19th century.  During the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923 there was incredible damage and more than 142,000 people lost their lives.  Many wooden homes were destroyed by fire.  Shortly after the Kanto earthquake a large shipment of construction lumber from Canada was provided to Japan, which greatly contributed to the reconstruction efforts of Tokyo.

Kanto earthquake 1923

Over the decades, Canadian wood continued to be a significant part of the Japanese building industry.  In the early 1970s a ground-breaking 2×4 construction method (wood-frame construction) was introduced from Canada and is now widely used in Japan.

On March 11, 2011 Japan experienced the strongest earthquake in its recorded history shifting the main island of Honshu almost 2.4 meters east.  The resulting tsunami reached heights of over 40 meters and created a path of destruction more than ten kilometers inland in the Sendai region.

Japanese tsunami 2011

Once again Canada and the forest sector reached out to help Japan with reconstruction after the devastating earthquake and tsunami. The Canada-Tohoku Reconstruction Project is a $4.6-million commitment to help rebuild public facilities using Canadian wood products and advanced wood technologies. The project is jointly funded through $2 million from the Government of Canada, $2 million from the government of British Columbia, $460,000 from Canadian forest companies and $150,000 from the government of Alberta. 

Photo of Dunguri Anne public library made from Canadian wood products

While Japan is a long-standing trade partner with Canada and our forest products are well integrated into the Japanese construction sector, we also have an impressive record of increased sales with China over the past decade. Since 2001, the industry has increased its wood exports to China by 45 times. Twenty-six wood products mills in British Columbia have re-opened as a result of the success of the market export programs in China.  Total forest product exports to China are now worth more than $4 billion.

Top 5 Canadian Forest Products Destinations 2012 (000’s of $CAD)

Country

Pulp

Paper

Wood

Total

United States

2,346,739

6,996,111

6,589,523

15,932,373

China

2,635,394

60,470

1,400,101

4,095,966

Japan

306,455

23,519

994,504

1,324,479

South Korea

328,661

7,246

165,426

501,334

India

148,813

179,727

9,573

338,114

 

Building new markets and finding customers in new countries takes time, money and commitment.  FPAC is a member of the Canada Wood Group (CWG) who, in partnership with Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), has been delivering market diversification programs and activities in off-shore markets with a focus on the Asia-Pacific. 

Continuing to enhance trade will be an important part of achieving the goals of Vision2020.  Therefore, we must not only maintain good relations with our historic customers such as the United States and Japan, we must continue to grow in new markets.

Diversified markets are key to building a resilient Canadian forest economy capable of withstanding variations in United States housing and wood products demand. Building market share and demand for Canadian wood frame construction technologies and the full range of Canadian wood products in emerging economies is an important part of that strategy.

As we continue to work with government and our forestry companies on this agenda, FPAC will continue to monitor trade negotiations and trade policies; we will work with all members of the forest sector and our partners to promote the use of forest products in both new and existing markets. 

So in a way, the Vision2020 agenda has a global outlook.  It is a comprehensive strategy for the forest sector and we at FPAC are excited to be involved in all aspects of this growth agenda.

If you have any thoughts or comments on Vision2020 generally or trade issues in particular I’d welcome your feedback at:  blog@fpac.ca