Most forest industry representatives on B.C.’s annual trade mission to Asia are carrying on to China this week, but Forests Minister Doug Donaldson and government officials aren’t joining them.
Donaldson said Monday he decided not to join forest company executives on the final leg of the journey due to diplomatic tensions between Canada and China over the arrest of a Chinese high-tech executive in Vancouver.
“Under the current circumstances, a government minister joining business people would add a different dynamic,” Donaldson told reporters in a conference call from Japan.
Susan Yurkovich, CEO of the Council of Forest Industries, said B.C. companies have long-standing relationships with Chinese, Korean and Japanese companies and the ones on this year’s trip are carrying on with their meetings.
The Chinese government summoned Canada’s ambassador to warn of consequences this weekend after Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of telecommunications giant Huawei was arrested at the request of U.S. authorities.
Yurkovich flew to China Monday to join members of B.C.’s largest-ever trade mission to Asia, joined by executives of major forest companies including Interfor, West Fraser and Canfor as well as specialty wood manufacturers. Donaldson said meetings and agreement signings arranged between B.C. and Chinese officials will be rescheduled to a later date.
Japan, China and Korea together now represent about 30 per cent of B.C.’s export market and there is more growth potential as wood construction technology improves and the environmental benefits of wood buildings replacing concrete are realized, Yurkovich said.
While in Korea, the group toured a housing development near Seoul, sponsored by the Canadian industry to showcase modern wood construction techniques.
Korea has moved up to become B.C.’s fifth largest forest products export market, and China remains number two after the United States. Japan is B.C.’s longest-standing Asian wood customer, using cedar and other high-grade lumber in its traditional wood frame construction.
The B.C. and Canadian governments co-sponsor demonstration projects and research in all three countries, to develop new innovations such as mass timber and high-rise construction using engineered wood.