• Canada's Lumber Industry

Canada's Lumber Industry (Photo : Getty Images)

Canadian International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, along with representatives of its softwood lumber industry, arrived in Beijing on Tuesday, April 25, to find a new market for Canadian softwood, the Calgary Herald reported.

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Canada's move to court China came after the U.S. announced that it would impose duties of up to 24 percent on Canadian lumber imports, the report said.

"This is caused by a protectionist industry in the U.S.," Champagne said in an interview. "My answer to that is we are looking at all sorts of options to obviously support our industry."

"If our industry becomes more diversified, that's going to help, and we won't find ourselves in the same position going forward," the minister added.

According to Champagne, softwood is an environment-friendly building material that can help China address its housing needs while keeping greenhouse gas emissions low.

"There's an imperative in China to have more green building material. That's exactly what we're here for," the minister said.

Observers, however, noted that Canada has to establish a better policy to engage with China, and it should avoid making random proposals when its interests are threatened by the U.S.

But according to Wenran Jiang, a University of Alberta expert on China, this mistake has been committed by previous liberal governments, such as the meeting between former Prime Minister Paul Martin and China's Hu Jintao in Sept. 2005.

Jiang also cited former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper's move to get Chinese customers for its oil, which was canceled after the U.S., under Obama, delayed the decision on the proposed pipeline.

"We need a strategy," said Jiang. "Otherwise, we fall back into the traditional kind of dynamics: we go to China when we need to, when we face barriers with the U.S., and when times are a little bit better we forget about China."

For the first time in 2011, China became the top softwood lumber exporter of British Columbia, but the exports have declined, compared with the U.S.

Jiang added that Canada's efforts to have a free trade deal with Canada, as well as its partnership on climate change, can help further strengthen the economic relations between the two countries.