China – Open for Business

By: Paul Newman

Executive Director, Market Access, COFI/Canada Wood

Earlier this month, after four years out of the market, I returned to China.

The return started on an anxious note.  Not because of political tensions but because of self-inflicted carelessness (call it old age!): I forgot my wallet at the immigration counter after being admitted into the country.   After a couple of anxious hours at lost and found, my wallet and all its contents were returned to me fully intact.   I was impressed.   (Apparently one of the benefits of a surveillance culture is that no one will try to steal anything.)

After that nerve wracking start I found myself in a China that did not seem much changed from the one I last visited.   Service was efficient and people friendly.   Far fewer foreigners were evident though.  

Over the course of the week I had some very informative meetings with a number of key technical building contacts and institutions.   We also participated in a workshop with the Chinese Academy of Forestry.   It was obvious that the Chinese were eager for engagement and wanted more interaction with foreign stakeholders.  Plans were made for future connections.

Technical meeting with China Acadamy of Forest to discuss Pinewood Nematode
I delivered a presentation on Canadian Heat Treatment Program

It was also clear that these organizations are sophisicated and in some respects ahead of Canada in many work areas – carbon reduction, conformity assessment and anticipating global over-the-horizon procurement requirements.   An example of the latter were preparations to comply with the EU’s future ‘Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism’ (CBAM).  This is a  European scheme (full implementation – 2026) to put a fair price on the carbon emitted during the production of non-EU carbon intensive goods entering the EU.  (At the moment wood is not on the list of applicable products.  It could be added in a planned expansion phase in 2030.)  This was the first meaningful discussion I’ve had on the CBAM.

If for nothing else but self-interest, it behooves Canadian entities and companies to include China in their travel plans.   Tensions between China and western nations are real but on the other hand China remains an engine of global manufacturing and a massive buyer.  Other trading partners like the USA, New Zealand and Australia are working to shore up their China linkages.   If climate change strategies are to be effective China will be central to decarbonization efforts.

My recommendation to forest companies and government is to get back to China.  You will be made welcome there.   Just keep your wallet in your pocket!