In China, the National Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development (MOHURD) is a critical department of interest to Canada’s forest products sector. It is this Chinese government department that oversees all details related to building – including codes, working with municipalities and building infrastructure throughout the country.
In understanding the power and influence of this branch of government, in March 2010, the Governments of British Columbia and Canada signed an MOU with China’s MOHURD to collaborate on wood frame building technology, enhance energy efficiency in building construction and to advance the goal of reducing carbon emissions (or simply, pollution) in China’s construction sector.
In December of last year, this MOU was renewed to further promote wood frame building construction in China.
Led by BC Forests Minister Steve Thomson, we had the opportunity to engage in a fascinating meeting with Chinese government officials on the topic of supporting MOHURD to do more to build with wood. There were a couple of positive takeaways from the meeting that provide promise for the use of more Canadian wood in China.
1. As part of the Chinese government’s plan to address climate change, MOHURD recently released a series of policies and regulations which favour building with wood. They have also introduced a guideline on prefabricated construction which encourages the use of wood to combat climate change. While there will definitely be competition to address increased demand from domestic, Russian, Swedish, German and New Zealand sources, this presents a real opportunity for Canada to do more trade with China in the years ahead – and that’s why Canada’s ongoing relationship build is critical through visits like this one.
2. The Chinese government has designated Jilin province as a pilot province for the expansion of wood in the country. Jilin province is home to 28 million people and is located in the northeast of China, bordering North Korea and Inner Mongolia. The Chinese government has set a goal to have 5% of the buildings constructed of wood in Jilin by 2020. This provides an additional market opportunity of 450,000 cubic metres of lumber in the next 4 years alone.
Following the meeting with MOHURD our delegation and Chinese government officials and customers were hosted by Dave Murphy, Canada’s Minister (Commercial) at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing. It gives you a great sense of pride about being Canadian when visiting our embassies overseas – hearing from the locals about how much they respect and admire Canada; and you see how hard our officials are working to help our industry grow relationships and business in markets like Japan and China.
We closed our visit to Beijing by attending a joint meeting of Chinese and Canadian leadership on combatting illegal logging. While in Canada, issues around illegal logging are really non-existent thanks to sustained efforts over the years by industry and government in working with environmental groups, First Nations groups and municipal and provincial leaders, China remains on the learning curve. They admitted that while they are getting much better than they were, a lack of enforcement on the ground is creating challenges. Ongoing dialogue and information sharing will surely be one way Canada can support China in cracking down on illegal logging in the months and years ahead.
As I prepare to head home via Shanghai, I’m so grateful for having had this experience to visit China with so many of our industry and government leaders. I wanted to thank BC Forests Minister Steve Thomson and his team and our Canada Wood teams in Japan and China for doing a stand up job of organizing.
This visit has left a lasting impression on me about not only the importance of growing markets for our Canadian wood, pulp and paper products in Asia and around the world, but just how critical sustained support for export market development is. Change happens so fast. Global market competition is fierce. If we continue to do things the way we have in the past, we are doomed to fail.
It’s reassuring to know that we have a real ‘made in Canada’ collaborative effort going on here among Natural Resources Canada, Canada Wood, BC’s Ministry of Forests, Lands & Natural Resource Operations, BC’s Forest Innovation Investment and industry groups like Council of Forest Industries (BC), Coast Forest Products Association and FPAC. To secure our future and the future of our mills and the good paying jobs they provide in our forest communities across British Columbia and the country, we must continue to work together smartly to drive results for our sector.