When British Columbia’s value-added wood sector opens its Global Buyers Mission Thursday at Whistler, Kun Wang will be one of a record high number of Chinese business people attending the three-day trade show.
For the first time in its eight-year history, the premiere trade show for British Columbia wood products is attracting more buyers from China than from the United States.
Twenty-four Chinese companies have signed up for the Global Buyers Mission, compared to 22 U.S. companies. Add to that list 13 Japanese companies, 11 Korean companies, eight from India, five from Taiwan and five from Vietnam, and Asia’s emerging role as a buyer of B.C. wood products becomes much more clear. Sixty-eight of the 99 business delegations at the event come from Asia.
The purpose of the event, put on by the trade association BC Wood, is to bring international buyers of wood products together with B.C. value-added manufacturers, who generate $4.85 billion a year in export sales. Products on display range from kitchen cabinets to log homes and cross-laminated timber panels, a relatively new product aimed at replacing concrete in commercial construction.
China’s growing interest in B.C. wood products is just another chapter in China’s need for resources to fuel its manufacturing, Wang said in an interview before the conference opened. Investors and buyers alike are seeking out new sources of supply, he said.
But differences between the two business cultures often make closing a deal difficult, Wang said, especially for small-to-medium-size businesses in both countries. Even getting a visa can be insurmountable for a medium-sized manufacturer in a Chinese city where there is no Canadian visa office, he said.
On the Canadian side, a sawmill may want to develop ties with Chinese manufacturers but does not have the in-house staff that the larger companies have to forge cross-Pacific links.
That’s where the Global Buyers Mission comes in, bringing Canadian companies in direct contact with potential customers. Wang expects the conference to be fertile ground for his company, Youtal Supply Chain Management Inc. He specializes in bridging the business gap for medium-sized businesses, both here and in China, by providing services and reducing the risk for Chinese investors.