Agricultural Marketing:

Export Opportunities for Wood Products in Japan Call for Customer Focus

RCED-93-137: Published: May 19, 1993. Publicly Released: May 25, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined the forest industry's and the federal government's approach to selling solid wood products overseas, focusing on the Foreign Agricultural Service's (FAS) promotion of U.S. wood products in Japan.

GAO found that: (1) the forest industry-FAS approach to marketing solid wood products in Japan has focused on reducing trade barriers while increasing demand; (2) FAS has lowered trade barriers by helping negotiate less prohibitive building codes, easier product certification, and lower tariffs on processed products; (3) the industry and FAS have supported demonstration projects showcasing U.S. solid wood products and timber-frame construction techniques that have greatly increased Japanese customers' awareness of and demand for such construction; (4) the industry-FAS approach has not emphasized customers' needs which may prevent full development of opportunities in the Japanese timber-frame market and penetration of the larger Japanese post-and-beam construction market; (5) some U.S. wood products companies do not show adequate commitment to understanding and meeting Japanese customers' needs and providing after-sale services; (6) domestic barriers, such as restrictions on the supply of federal timber, difficulty in obtaining financing, industry failure to consider export options, and an inadequately trained workforce, may make foreign competition difficult; and (7) the Department of Agriculture has developed a long-term trade strategy that emphasizes customer needs in promoting exports and ameliorating factors that make exporting difficult and put U.S. companies at a competitive disadvantage in international markets.

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