Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson characterizes his trade mission to Japan and China as a success.

Thomson, MLA for Kelowna-Mission, spoke with the media on a conference call from Beijing, China Wednesday during his annual Forestry Asia Trade Mission.

The dozen or so members of the delegation spent three days in Japan before arriving in China earlier in the week.

“(These are) number two and three most important markets for the forest sector,” said Thomson on the importance of the trip.

“In Japan, we saw the use of hemlock timber in Canadian-style homes. Hemlock is the most proliferous tree species on the B.C. coast and the use of these timbers in residential construction is a growing niche-market opportunity,” said Thomson.

During the trip, Thomson said he had a chance to tour a five-story elderly care facility which, once complete, will be the largest two-by-four wooden structure in Japan.

“This building features a mid-ply, sheer-wall system that was designed by FP Innovations and UBC,” Thomson said. “It’s extremely earthquake-resistant which is a key factor in markets over here. And, with Japan’s growing senior population, elder care facilities are also an emerging market opportunity for B.C. wood-frame construction.”

While in China, Thomson said the delegation took part in the first ever Sino-Canadian Wood Conference, attended by 300 Chinese delegates.

“These are buyers, importers, users of B.C. lumber value added products. It was a very engaging session,” he said. “All the feedback from the industry was that this was a very important conference. First one to be held and I expect this initiative to continue related to future missions.”

Thomson also renewed a five-year memorandum of understand with China today to promote wood-frame construction in China.

The delegation included Susan Yurkovich, president and CEO of the Council of Forest Industries.

“It is an important activity for our industry. It’s important for us as an industry to demonstrate how important the markets are,” said Yurkovich.

“It allows us the opportunity to demonstrate commitment to our customers and also for us to tell our story directly about the high quality wood products we are able to provide to their market.”

The trade mission concludes later this week.