01/16/2014 08:03 EST | Updated 03/18/2014 05:59 EDT

B.C. Premier Clark boasts Asian trade missions boosting forestry sector

VANCOUVER - Premier Christy Clark says British Columbia's forest industry is beginning to cash in on her government's trade missions to Asia.

Clark told the annual gathering of the Truck Loggers Association in Vancouver Thursday that the province exported $1.27 billion of softwood lumber to China between last January and end of November 2013.

She said that's a new record and a 13 per cent increase in exports over the previous year.

"We're going to keep working to make sure we keep that momentum up," Clark told the crowd, adding she'll continue to lead trade missions to Asia.

Clark said softwood lumber exports to China between 2003 and 2011 grew by 1,500 per cent to $1.1 billion.

Clark said the Chinese think it's important for the government to be involved in making business connections between the two countries.

In fact, Clark announced in October the appointment of former Liberal MLA Ben Stewart as the province's trade commissioner in Asia.

At the time, she said Asian leaders need to know that the people who are working in the province's trade offices can pick up the phone and have their calls answered in Victoria.

Just weeks later, the premier left for her fourth trade mission to Asia, visiting China, Korea and Japan.

Clark told the truck loggers that the government announced four separate trade deals during the trip, and one of them involved a B.C. company that's signing an $80-million contract to provide housing in Szechuan, a province in west-central China.

The premier also acknowledged the important of the association and its members, introducing 16 Liberal MLAs and several high-profile cabinet ministers.

"I'll tell you, I don't travel with a small entourage," she said. "It really does say something about how important your organization is for Brutish Columbia and for all of us in our caucus."