Murkowski raises Alaska seafood, energy among trade aid talks
Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski says President Trump's plan to provide up to $12 billion to farmers impacted by Chinese export tariffs is "is an admission that tariffs are hurting, not helping, our country."
On Tuesday, Trump ordered USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to design a response to $11 billion in "retaliatory tariffs" on U.S. agricultural goods. But the administration hasn't made a similar offer to the seafood industry, including Alaska's, which is also caught in the cross-hairs of the growing trade war. Murkowski urged the administration to take a broader trade policy view.
"Trade assistance is no substitute for trade itself," Murkowski said. “The administration’s announcement of $12 billion in aid is an admission that tariffs are hurting, not helping, our country. Yet, farmers are hardly the only ones caught in the crossfire -- so, too, are our fishermen, the energy industry, and many others."
According to John Sackton, publisher of Seafood News, the list of Chinese products Trump is proposing for U.S. sanctions includes Alaska seafood sent to China for processing, much of which is then sent back into the United States for sale.
Because facilities in China can process Alaska's seafood at a lower cost, it means it can be sold at a lower cost, making it more competitive both in and outside of the U.S., and providing a higher profit margin for members of the Alaska seafood industry.
"It actually is an end benefit for the U.S. consumer," explained Jeremy Woodrow, a spokesperson for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI).
"There really is nowhere else in the world that is set-up to be able to handle the volume of fish, as well and as efficiently to keep Alaska’s seafood price competitive," Woodrow said, adding that establishing such a relationship with processors in China has taken decades.
"We would probably see seafood processing companies from Alaska looking for other markets, but, there’s no way that can happen overnight," Woodrow said. "That’s going to take time, potentially years, to develop new locations that can handle the volume of seafood that comes out of Alaska."
Woodrow says ASMI plans to provide comment to the U.S. trade office about the issue.
Austin Baird, Gov. Bill Walker's press secretary, said in an email Wednesday that he has been "advocating for the seafood industry and other key sectors of Alaska’s economy to be eligible for participation in any federal aid packages created to offset the impacts of tariffs."
"More importantly, though, the Governor continues to urge leaders in Washington to work toward agreements that will increase trade," Baird wrote. "Alaska’s vast natural resources provide an opportunity to massively reduce the trade imbalance between the U.S. and China, and making that happen should be the fundamental goal of U.S. trade policy."
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