Monday, March 29, 2010

International Business Bustles at Domotex Asia Floor Covering Show and Wood Summit

I just returned from China where I attended Domotex asia CHINAFLOOR ("DACF") and  participated in two international summits in which representatives from around the world reported on regional and global issues affecting the flooring industry.  I return with some strong impressions to share.

First, if there was any doubt about the business climate in China, that question was answered when the opening gate was flooded with 20,000 up beat visitors.  They were anxious to see the products of 1,300 exhibitors from 70 countries, including Armstrong and Mannington among other U.S. exhibitors, all hoping to penetrate the expanding Chinese market.  The show included the largest collection of bamboo manufacturers of any trade show along with wood flooring, vinyl, carpet, rugs, manufacturing equipment and accessories. First day attendance set a record for the 12 year old show with a significant increase over last year.  While pre-registration was up, the number of on-site registrants nearly overwhelmed the show’s staff.

Even for this veteran of the global flooring market, that “global” reality was brought home in a striking way when I participated in two international summits focused on wood flooring.

I was honored to join high ranking government officials to make the opening remarks at the first World Flooring Forum.  This gathering explored the impact and role of wood flooring on the environment, developing low carbon economies and global opportunities. This was an all day event attended by over 500 people. The U.S. was represented by Mark Elwell of the National Wood Flooring Association ("NWFA"), David Sheehan of Mannington representing the North American Laminate Flooring Association ("NALFA"); Jim Traweek of Maretti USA and John Chen from the American Hardwood Export Council ("AHEC"). This meeting underscored the need for the world’s collective effort of governments, suppliers and consumers to make progress in building low carbon economies using sustainable practices.

On the second day, the Floor Covering Institute moderated the third annual International Wood Flooring Summit, an event organized jointly by the DACF, the Floor Covering Institute and Floor Covering News Ruud Steenvorden and I were pleased to bring together representatives from Europe, Africa, the U.S and host country China, to report on changes in governmental legislation and environmental concerns affecting the wood flooring industry.

At the summit, Jürgen Früchtenicht, representing the European Federation of Parquet Importers, presented the requirements of the European Union’s recently enacted Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade ("FLEGT") legislation.  While much of this law is still being finalized, it serves as a warning to manufacturers around the world that Europe will not support trade in illegally harvested wood products.  Früchtenicht  pointed out that like Lacey, FLEGT unfortunately focuses on the legality of timber rather than sustainability.  Still, it is a significant step in the direction of protecting the environment.

Mark Elwell updated the group on recent Lacey Act Amendment activities, dispelling any question about the American government’s willingness to spend the money needed to enforce Lacey.  Elwell reported on the recent raid of Gibson Guitar by federal agents of the Fish and Wildlife Service to confiscate rosewood that they say was illegally harvested.  Read the original breaking news on the Gibson story here.

Obvious to all was the fact that wood flooring offers the environmental benefit of carbon sequestration.  Trees that are not harvested but are left to decompose in the forest release all the carbon dioxide they absorbed during their life back into the atmosphere. Meanwhile, timber that is manufactured into wood floors continues to sequester that carbon. In Germany, there is an unfounded concern that wood floors are not good for the environment. This should be a warning to our industry to “tell our story” before uninformed perceptions becomes a reality and hurt our sales and our environment.  Well managed forests and sustainable manufacturing processes combined make more than just a strong story, they can make a difference.

Jim

Jim Gould is President of the Floor  Covering Institute

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