There’s some nervousness for Alberta’s forestry companies. But there’s also talk of new opportunity in China. The Softwood Lumber Agreement with the United States is about to close, and Alberta’s Minister of Economic Development and Trade sees reaching a deal as ‘very unlikely’.

“It comes to a close in less than three weeks,” Deron Bilous said in an interview following his address to the China-Canada Business Association. “Obviously the Government of Canada is continuing to try to reach an agreement with the United States. But my message to the Alberta Forestry Products Association is that we need to actively pursue diversifying our markets.”

“At the moment, the bulk of our wood products go to the United States and if this agreement isn’t settled in the next three weeks, which is very unlikely, it’s going to cause significant challenges for our forestry sector.”

The opportunity is the next Alberta trade mission to China in November. There, Bilous and others will promote forestry as Alberta looks to find new customers, not unlike the goal in the oil and gas sector.

“There is significant potential in China. We need to look at what ways and uses for wood products. Part of it is showing the different uses of our products and then working with them. There’s significant opportunity in Asia for our forestry sector.”

One of the stops will be what’s called the Yantai program, which is a joint effort between the Government of Alberta, and the City of Edmonton. It’ll be to mark the 20th anniversary of Siwin Foods.

“They grew out of our agri-food incubator in Leduc,” Bilous said. “This event in China is significant. There will be more than 150 Chinese companies looking to find partners, and partner with Alberta based companies, or to invest in Alberta based companies.”

Bilous said the exploratory talks on a China-Canada free trade deal has increased interest in November’s trade mission.