Seafood analyst: Trump's proposed tariffs hurt Alaska
Alaska's seafood industry should brace for another setback in the growing trade war with China, according to an industry analyst.
After a round of Chinese tariffs targeted American products, including Alaska seafood, earlier this month, President Donald Trump is preparing to strike back.
John Sackton, publisher of Seafood News, says a preliminary list of proposed sanctions includes a 10 percent tariff on $200 million worth of products coming into the U.S. from China.
Sackton says that would include virtually all seafood, particularly Alaska seafood first shipped to China for processing before returning to the U.S. for re-sale.
"When they’re exported for reprocessing, this product comes back into the U.S. as salmon burgers and pollock fillets and so forth," Sackton said. "They hit the Walmart shopper directly. Walmart, of course, is selling Alaska pink salmon that’s processed in China; it’s a popular item. And somebody is going to have to pay that 10 percent increase in cost."
According to Sackton's analysis, the seafood imports from China are worth about $2.75 billion, of which Alaska’s share is at least 50 percent.
"The problem from the trade analyst point of view is that President Trump is trying to hit such a high dollar figure of $200 million worth of products. There’s not a lot of room for horse trade," Sackton said. "There isn’t that much more that they could substitute if they try to stick to that number."
Sackton says those strong tariffs -- aimed at China -- will not only hurt American consumers, but those who work in Alaska's seafood industry.
"China is going to be the global market for the fastest growth for salmon," Sackton said. "And if we want the highest prices for salmon from Alaska, we’ve got to able to compete with all these different markets. And if we’re cut out of the Chinese market, that means that prices for Alaska’s salmon are going to be less than they would have been if we’d had those additional customers."
Sackton hopes industry lobbying efforts can influence Trump's decision before the president publishes a final list of products for sanctions in August.
"In our view, Trump fired at the Chinese, but he hit his own side," Sackton said. "And I really think that that’s too bad because the seafood industry here, in Alaska and in the U.S., has really been trying hard to look for new markets and these new markets are very competitive."
Sackton says that China's 25 percent tariff on U.S. seafood, implemented earlier this month, is already taking a toll on Alaska's crabbing industry.
"You have companies that are investing in Alaska to bring live crab to China," Sackton said. "A 25 percent tariff on this product going into China really cools the market demand. And takes these e-commerce companies that are very interested in Alaska and forces them to look elsewhere. So Instead of promoting an Alaskan king crab, they’ll promote a Russian king crab. And this just directly hurts us."
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