China is Alaska’s biggest export partner, but business and government leaders on both sides of the Pacific say there is plenty of room for growth.

Those prospects produced a visit Friday from seven Harbin City World Trade Center business leaders, who began a two-day tour in the Anchorage area.

The visit also comes one week after an Alaska trade delegation toured China for 10 days with Gov. Bill Walker and several members of his administration.

The Harbin delegation first heard from Walker, who has been pushing hard for trade expansion since touting the trade potential in his State of the State in January.

Afterward, the group had a roundtable discussion with local businesses at the Anchorage Economic Development Corp. offices. Topics ranged from commercial fishing and real estate development to airline service and shipping.

The Harbin group is a separate delegation from those who met Alaskans last month.

Steven Lo, executive director for Harbin City’s World Trade Center, said the delegation’s mission is to research opportunities with the intent on returning to Alaska often.

“We are, first of all, looking for trading opportunities, specifically in the seafood export, from Alaska to China, specifically from Anchorage to  Harbin City,” he said. “From Harbin City, we would like to distribute the product all over China. Our first mission is to satisfy the local market.”

Trade discussions between Alaska and China take place against the backdrop of U.S. President Donald Trump and China President Xi Jinping battling over tariff rates.

“There will always be disagreements when you do trade,” Lo said. “I think in the long term, trade is going to grow. In the long term, trade will grow and grow.”

Lindsey Whitt, an external affairs manager from shipping company Matson, traveled with the Alaska delegation to China last month. She also joined the Harbin delegation at the roundtable.

Whitt told the delegation Alaska businesses like Matson are “dreaming big,” when it comes to prospective trade with China.

“I know sometimes this is a big dream for a lot of Alaskans,” she said after the meeting. “I just want to encourage people to walk the journey. That’s what I keep saying to everyone: walk the journey. What would it be like if Alaskans started exporting more goods to China?

“The Chinese are interested in Alaska. They want more fish. They want our clean air. They want tourism. They want water from here. They want Alaskan products that are clean and freshly grown, and opportunities for organic food and excellent beer made with excellent water. So the opportunities are there.”

The Harbin City delegation is scheduled to leave late Saturday. It will have made several stops throughout Anchorage including the Ted Stevens International Airport and the Copper River Seafoods processing facility.

Another delegation is scheduled to visit Alyeska this summer to consider some of Alaska’s sports facilities to train Chinese Olympic athletes.

Copyright 2018 KTVA. All rights reserved.


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