Canadian wood-products manufacturers received a boost to sales in foreign markets and a vote of confidence from Ottawa last weekend at the 10th annual Global Buyers Mission in Whistler.
Eight-hundred people, comprising of 240 pre-qualified buyers from 22 countries, plus 235 Canadian exhibitors, crowded into the Whistler Conference Centre, signing deals worth an estimated $48-million in B.C. and Canadian value-added wood products.
This is the eighth-consecutive year Whistler hosted the GBM. It was expected the trade show would rotate through other provincial locations each year, but after hosting the mission 2005, Whistler became the delegates' preferred, and possibly permanent, location of choice.
"It's our ace in the hole," said Brain Hawrysh, CEO of BC Wood, organizer of the event. "Whistler has international cache, so if you have someone in the Philippines sitting on the fence about a working trip to the GBM, you know they'll come to Whistler before they would go to Vancouver."
MP John Weston, who attended the mission, said the GBM is a major money-making event for the industry, but it is also a significant opportunity to "showcase what Whistler does really well.
"Especially in the Sea to Sky, there's no better forum for that particular conference … Whistler knows how to welcome the world, whether it's in recreation, or arts, or music, or business. We don't emphasize that enough: that we showcase the best of Canada's business in Whistler."
Three quarters of this year's buyers came from Asian markets. All were personally invited and pre-authorized to buy.
Increased spending power in Asia coupled with new trade ties is helping alleviate Canada's dependence on US markets.
B.C.'s Minister of Forests Steve Thomson was also in attendance at this year's GBM, alongside federal Minister of International Trade Ed Fast, who delivered the opening address and assured attendees of Ottawa's commitment to increasing Canada's export of wood products.
"Wherever I travel throughout the world, I highlight Canada's world-class forestry industry as a priority sector in our government's broad and ambitious pro-trade plan to open new markets," Fast said in a release.
Canada exported $10 billion in lumber and wood products in 2012. The United States bought $6.6 billion of that, followed by China and Japan.
Since the inaugural event, GBM sales estimates have spiked from just $5 million in 2003 to $48 million this year. The industry's value is underscored by BC Wood statistics pointing to 2.8 more jobs than the raw lumber industry for every cubic-metre of wood processed.
"The growth of the GBM in the past 10 years is nothing short of phenomenal," Hawwrysh said. "We're particularly pleased to see buyers representing emerging markets like India, the Philippines and Malaysia."
Canada is currently negotiating a comprehensive economic partnership agreement with India, aimed at increasing market access, reduce tariffs and trade barriers for the forest industry.
BC Wood Specialties Group (BC Wood) is a not‐for‐profit trade association representing
the province's value‐added wood products industry. BC Wood assists secondary wood product manufacturers with accessing international markets they might not otherwise be able to enter.