The rising strength of the US Dollar compared to the Yen has impacted sales of US building materials in Japan. Coupled with an increase in the Japanese consumption tax from 5% to 8% in April 2014, new construction starts have slowed in the first half of 2015.
However, as part of Prime Minister Abe's economic stimulus program, the Government of Japan and the Ministry of Land Tourism and Transportation (MLIT) have instituted tax relief programs and subsidies to increase the size of Japan's remodeling market to $150 billion by 2020 and the size of the home resale market to $100 by 2020. Residential starts are projected to be 860,000 in 2016.
Other international markets are resisting the global economic slowdown. For example, Turkey's relatively young population (75% of Turkey's population is below 45 years old), robust housing demand, and 4.2% annual GDP growth have sustained the building materials market.
Despite political unrest in the Middle East, GDP growth in the Middle East North Africa Region (MENA) from 200-2013 was 4.3%. Further, members of the Gulf Cooperation Council Gulf Cooperation (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) are working together to promote trade and development in the region. This cooperation has resulted in ongoing construction development and international trade despite political unrest in neighboring countries. Our partners at the Softwood Export Council organize a trade booth at two shows in Dubai each year. Trade leads from the April Dubai Wood Show were sent to EBPA members via email.
On May 12, EBPA held a seminar in Seattle titled "Export Markets That Can Resist the Strong US Dollar". The seminar featured discussions about a number of long standing international markets for US building materials such as Japan and China as well as important growing markets such as Turkey and the Middle East. Presenters also discussed growing market segments, including Japan's remodel and home resale market, and Japanese government subsidies to encourage the use of wood in public buildings. Presentations from the seminar are available to members.
While China's construction market has slowed from last year, softwood lumber buyers continue to look for suppliers. EBPA is working with staff in Shanghai to organize an inbound softwood lumber buyer trip the week of September 20-27, 2015. The group will visit Atlanta, GA and Portland, OR where they will tour production facilities, participate in grading and application seminars, and meet with suppliers during receptions. We are assembling participant groups now and will update members when the group is confirmed.