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Op-Ed: Trade deal good for B.C. and province's forestry industry (Vancouver Sun)

For over 250 years, British Columbia’s entrepreneurs, skilled workers and communities have contributed to a growing and successful forestry industry. B.C.’s renewable timberland resource has generated economic wealth and improved our collective prosperity for generations, while setting the global benchmark for sustainable forestry practices. Only one per cent of B.C. forest land is harvested annually, with three trees planted for each one that is harvested. Today, the sector is also playing a significant role in reconciliation with Indigenous communities.

We often associate forestry with B.C.’s rural communities, supporting jobs, local businesses, and community facilities. That is entirely true, but it is also one of B.C.’s largest urban employers. People in the Lower Mainland pursue forestry-related careers within an array of small and large businesses working in professional services, transportation, equipment manufacturing and technology among others. Rural and urban, B.C. forestry is a vital contributor to our prosperity.

In total, the B.C. forestry sector generates 140,000 well-paying, middle-class jobs across the province in over 140 communities. The industry is also creating many knowledge economy jobs through academic and industry research and development, and the use of virtual reality, data, and connected machines to make more efficient, safer and more sustainable decisions. B.C. is emerging as a global technology leader in the space through its numerous forestry technology companies, world-class universities, and a vibrant business ecosystem. The launching of the B.C.-led Digital Technology Supercluster with Federal support will turbocharge this further.

But make no mistake, all of these forest-sector benefits are dependent on open access to international markets and the export demand for our high-quality pulp, paper and wood products.

It is against these realities and market opportunities that we are particularly supportive of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). As a small, open economy, Canada depends on trade for our quality of life. British Columbia, in particular, is well positioned as the gateway to the Pacific-Rim given which countries have signed on. Over one-third of B.C.’s forestry exports are sold to Asian countries, including Japan, our oldest trading partner.

Under CPTPP, tariffs on many Canadian wood products sold to Japan will decline to zero over time, making B.C.’s products even more competitive. Vietnam is also a signatory and its economy is growing rapidly, presenting another potential growth opportunity for B.C. forest products.

Today, wood products from B.C. are exported to over 100 countries globally and have in many respects led to the diversity of trade B.C. enjoys relative to other Canadian provinces, buffering us from economic and political cycles that can negatively affect the industry, our economy and jobs.

Despite our wood remaining in demand, B.C. needs to do more to expand trade that supports the quality of life and things we want as British Columbians. At a time when U.S. protectionism is creating risk and uncertainty, the CPTPP will help B.C. diversify and build its markets. Increased access to Asian markets will translate to additional well-paying B.C. jobs and greater investment in value-added processing, equipment, research and development, and technology.

The CPTPP is good for B.C. forestry and forest dependent communities from Vancouver to Vanderhoof to Victoria. We congratulate the Government of Canada on signing the CPTPP and encourage it to bring the CPTPP into force as quickly as possible for the benefit of all British Columbians.

Signed:

            

Stewart Beck
President & CEO
Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada 
 
Susan Yurkovich
President and Chief Executive Officer
BC Council of Forest Industries 
 
     
   
Val Litwin
President and Chief Executive Officer
British Columbia Chamber of Commerce
 
Greg D’Avignon
President and Chief Executive Officer
Business Council of British Columbia
   
     
     
Iain Black 
President and Chief Executive Officer
Greater Vancouver Board of Trade 
 
Mike Henderson
Managing Director
Greater Vancouver Gateway Council
     
     
     
Chris Gardner
President
Independent Contractors and Businesses Association
   
     

   

As published in the Vancouver Sun.