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China's Seafood Tariffs - Not Just Alaska

Sen, Murkowski tells Trump administration that trade assistance is no substitute for trade itself

 IntraFish Media - September 2018

“First of all, you’re right. It’s not just Alaska” - Ambassador Robert E. Lighthizer

Concern over the simmering trade war between the United States and China is growing in Alaska.

During the July Commerce Justice, and Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, US Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) questioned Ambassador Robert E. Lighthizer on the administration’s plans to ensure US trade policy allows seafood producers to thrive, citing China’s recently announced 25 percent tariff on American seafood imports.                                   

“It has clearly rattled my state, “Murkowski said of the tariff.

“Our seafood industry is the number one private industry in terms of the jobs and the economic opportunity it brings.”

Murkowski said that in 2017, about 40 percent of Alaska’s salmon exports went to China, and over the last five years, about a half of Alaska’s salmon has been exported to China.

F/V Evening Star

F/V Evening Star

Additionally, 54 percent of the state’s cod exports last year went to China.

“So, this is very, very significant to us,” said Murkowski. “We’re still trying to figure out what exactly this means not only to our fishermen, but to the processors, the logistics industry – all aspects of the seafood supply chain. And then the 10 percent retaliatory tariffs that were announced just last month put even more pressure on our seafood processors because many of our fish and shellfish that are harvested in the state are then processed in China before reimporting back to the US for domestic distribution. So, in many ways were looking at this and it is in effect, imposing a 10 percent tax on our own seafood. Which is just a tough one to reconcile.”

The senator questioned Ambassador Lighthizer about the administration’s plans to ensure US trade policy allows seafood procedures to thrive, specifically asking how can the administration can give that assurance to the seafood industry that is not only critical to Alaska, but to many of our coastal states.

“First of all, you’re right. It’s not just Alaska,” said Ambassador Lighthizer.

“We’ve hard from a number of states that have a problem. All of the retaliation in seafood has been from China because they believe it’s an effective political tool and that’s very unfair to the people that are in that industry. Much in the same way that agriculture has been targeted by others, but also primarily by China.”

Lighthizer did not answer repeated questions for whether or not there is more detailed plan to protect seafood producers.

When Senator Murkowski asked Ambassador Lighthizer who is eligible for the recently announced $12 billion in aid for farmers and whether that encompassed fishermen. Lighthizer said he would look into it.

In July the administration announced $12 billion in aid for farmers impacted by the trade war with China.

Murkowski encouraged the President to take a broader view of the impacts his administration’s trade policy in having on various sectors, such as the seafood and energy industries, and reminded the President that trade assistance is no substitute for trade itself.

China announced it would impose tariffs of 25 percent on US seafood that includes Alaska salmon, pollock and groundfish starting July 6 in response to President Trump’s earlier announced tariffs on Chinese goods.

James Johnson