Softwood Export Council Trade Missions Generate International Sales For U.S. Suppliers

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Softwood Export Council Trade Missions Generate International Sales For U.S. Suppliers 1
By Rose Braden,
President Softwood Export Council,
Portland, OR

Trade missions are one of the most effective ways for U.S. suppliers to connect with buyers and improve their understanding of international markets. In 2023 alone, SEC trade missions resulted in over $5 million in reported sales. SEC missions have been effective in both developing opportunities in emerging markets and new opportunities in established markets. In 2023, SEC led trade missions to Mexico, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan and it is gearing up to lead two in 2024.

In May 2023, a group of 13 U.S. Softwood lumber suppliers and trade association representatives traveled to Monterrey and Tijuana where the group met with pallet and packaging producers and importers during visits to manufacturing facilities and distribution yards. Over 65 importers and manufacturers attended seminars and receptions where speakers discussed U.S. Softwood lumber grades and trends affecting U.S. Softwood lumber availability and competitiveness in Mexico.

Mission participants rated the mission highly and within one month of the mission, they reported $670,000 in new sales. Within nine months of the trip, participants reported $3.4 million in new sales and a number of new customers as a result of their participation.

Softwood Export Council Trade Missions Generate International Sales For U.S. Suppliers 2
Members of the Mexico mission visit a leading Softwood lumber importer and wholesaler.

The Mexico missions have now become an annual event. In April 2024, SEC led its second annual Mexico mission to Mexico. Nine U.S. Softwood lumber suppliers met with key Softwood lumber importers and pallet manufacturers during roundtable discussions and visits to manufacturing facilities in Mexico City and Queretaro. Networking receptions provided additional time for the delegation to develop relationships.

In September, as part of the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service’s (FAS) Emerging Markets Program, SEC organized a mini mission in conjunction with the Vietnam Wood Show. With help from FAS-Ho Chi Minh City and Handicraft and Wood Industry Association (HAWA), SEC led a roundtable discussion where U.S. suppliers and key importers and designers discussed opportunities for hybrid construction and interest in U.S. Softwoods as a way of differentiating furniture and millwork produced in Vietnam.

Over 34 importers and architectural design professionals attended a dinner where SEC speakers, including a professional furniture designer, presented information about how to incorporate U.S. Softwoods into furniture production. Networking at the event was exceptionally lively and U.S. suppliers reported finalizing over $400,000 in sales and several trial orders within a month of the trip.

Softwood Export Council Trade Missions Generate International Sales For U.S. Suppliers 3
Visits to manufacturers and wholesalers are an important way to understand local production and competition from other international suppliers.

The following month, SEC and APA-The Engineered Wood Association, led a group of nine Softwood suppliers and association representatives on a mission to Seoul, Korea. As one of a handful of Asian countries where wood frame housing is an established segment, the group met with long standing SEC contacts in the construction industry during visits to wood frame home projects and lumber distribution yards. Over 40 construction industry professionals and lumber importers attended an SEC hosted dinner where the group developed new contacts and renewed existing relationships.

SEC ended 2023 with its annual Japan mission. Now in its 34th year, the mission has been a key event for U.S. Softwood suppliers to develop and maintain relationships with large Japanese importers and pre-cutters. As the market has changed with a decline in housing starts, SEC is adapting the event to identify new opportunities. Over 100 industry representatives attended a conference that featured Japanese and U.S. speakers who shared information about Softwood applications in non-residential construction, U.S. forest sustainability, and the growing Japan market for imported wood pellets. The conference was followed by a well-attended reception. During the week, mission members also met with architects and builders to learn more about opportunities in non-residential construction and agricultural buildings.

Softwood Export Council Trade Missions Generate International Sales For U.S. Suppliers 4
U.S. suppliers reported over $400,000 in sales that resulted from SEC’s seminar and networking events in Vietnam in September 2023.

In 2024, SEC will continue to update the format of the winter Japan mission. This year, the mission will be held during the week of November 5 in Osaka, and will include project site visits, meetings with importers and end-users, a reception, and participation in the Osaka Residential and Non-Residential trade show.

SEC’s 2024 calendar is available on our website at

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