B.C. Forests MInister Doug Donaldson (right side centre) meets with housing ministry officials in Jiangsu province, China, Nov. 15, 2017. Jiangsu, population 79 million, is China’s pilot project for wood and hybrid wood construction. (B.C. government photo)

B.C. VIEWS: China a better partner for forest industry than U.S.

B.C. is slowly winning the softwood lumber war

B.C. Forests Minister Doug Donaldson is back from his first wood industry trade mission to China and Japan, an annual journey I was fortunate to go on last year.

China especially is an eye-opening experience, and depending on the smog, an eye-irritating experience as well. The sheer scale of urban development around cities like Shanghai and Nanjing is striking – they don’t build a high-rise, they build eight or 10 or 12 at a time.

Nanjing is the commercial centre of Jiangsu province, where the Chinese central government has ordered a pilot project to phase in wood and engineered wood, starting with roof trusses and pre-fabricated infill walls for concrete buildings. They’re working with B.C.-developed wood construction because “it’s energy efficient, it’s green, it’s light, it’s fast,” says Rick Jeffery, chair of the national industry group Canada Wood and a veteran of Asia trade.

This is important in a vast country that is not only choked with pollution, it’s running low on limestone, a key component of concrete. Based on 2016 rates of consumption, China is using as much concrete in two years as the U.S. would in a century, and that’s with their growth slowed from its peak a few years ago.

One of the pictures sent back by B.C. government staff shows Donaldson attending a meeting of the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development (MOHURD) for Jiangsu, with dozens of people crowded around a long boardroom table. The province’s population is approaching 79 million.

In a phone call from the Tokyo stop last week, Donaldson said once the government decides on an action, “things happen quickly in China.” The national MOHURD directs the provinces and essentially controls construction.

Donaldson noted that President Xi Jinping, in his recent sweeping address to the 19th Congress of the Communist Party of China, emphasized clean, pre-fabricated building systems.

Things don’t happen quickly in wood industry talks with the U.S., where the central government isn’t ruled by dictators but by its lumber industry lobby. Using the same subsidy accusations that have failed repeatedly in international trade rulings, the U.S. has forced Canadian softwood producers to fork over $500 million in countervailing and anti-dumping duties since last spring alone.

This American shakedown of Canada has been going on for decades. In the “managed trade” arrangement that ran from 2006 to 2015, Canadian lumber mills paid punitive duties averaging about 11 per cent. Now, after a preliminary ruling was generously scaled back by the U.S. Department of Commerce, our producers are paying about 20 per cent, directly into the pockets of U.S. lumber barons.

B.C. Council of Forest Industries CEO Susan Yurkovich has repeatedly pointed out that this U.S. protectionism doesn’t work. It can’t work, because the U.S. doesn’t produce enough lumber to meet its own construction demand. If it blocks lumber from B.C., which represents half of Canada’s exports south, it will have to buy lumber from overseas.

The real purpose of this U.S. industry trade bullying is to push up the price of their products, and that is working extremely well. U.S. lumber and structural panel prices hit a near record last week.

The good news for B.C. is that the price is high enough that sales to the U.S. are easily covering the cost of duties. That’s being passed on to U.S. builders and homeowners.

One of these days, Trump and his team of trade geniuses may figure this out and begin to consider free trade in lumber. Until then, Canada and B.C. are well advised to continue working on the Asia market.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

School District 70 proposes new school names, asks for public feedback

Board of education suggests new names for the district and two of its schools

Washout brings delays to drivers heading in and out of Tofino-Ucluelet

West Coast commuters are facing delays Tuesday morning.

Ucluelet’s Royal Marine Search and Rescue team seeking new recruits

“We’re on call for anything and everything on the water.”

Five rescued after boat crashes between Tofino and Ahousaht

“Ahousaht has always been a willing participant to save anyone who is in distress in our territory.”

Search continues for missing Tofino dog allegedly taken by tourists

Shannon Boothman fears Itska has been taken off Vancouver Island after sighting at Nanaimo ferry.

B.C. politicians view supermodel’s transition journey on Transgender Day

Liberal MLA Jane Thornthwaite and New Democrat MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert appear in the documentary

B.C. won’t appeal decision protecting ICBC court experts

Change to evidence rules next to save money, David Eby says

1898 Yukon gold rush photo featuring Greta Thunberg look-alike sends internet into tailspin

Jokes erupted this week after a 120-year-old photo taken by Eric A. Hegg surfaced from archives

BC Ferries’ two new hybrid vessels set sail for B.C. from Romania

Two Island Class ferries to be in use by 2020

Distracted driving tickets not for ICBC revenue, B.C. minister says

Minister Mike Farnworth calls SenseBC analysis ‘nonsense’

CN Rail strike and lack of trucking alternatives stoke forest industry fears

Companies calling on the federal government to ‘do everything in its power’ to end the strike

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveils new Liberal cabinet

Pivotal role in his new cabinet for a minority-government era goes to Chrystia Freeland

B.C. mom, kids on bike turned away from Tim Hortons drive-thru

Car-free for years, Charity Millar ‘felt gross’ being denied service

B.C. woman puts call out for 10,000 personal, heartfelt Christmas cards for the homeless

Christmas Card Collective enters into third year of making spirits bright

Most Read