While the US and China are in a war of words involving tariffs on billions of dollars in imports to each country, the seafood industry in the Pacific Northwest is still uncertain where the chips may fall.
“This is a huge deal,” says Garrett Evridge, an economist with the McDowell Group, a Juneau, Alaska based research and consulting services firm whose clients include the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (AMSI). “China is our most important trading partner. A lot of seafood harvested in Alaska is reprocessed and distributed globally.”
Still, Evridge said, “There is a lot of diplomacy happening behind the scenes that we are not aware of … and in terms of actual economic impact, it is too early to say.”
ASMI’s Executive Director, Alexa Tonkovich, said that the institute is working with other US seafood industry trade groups and its own China office to evaluate the situation. ASMI has been active in the Chinese marketplace for more than 20 years.
The National Fisheries Institute (NFI) also spoke out, saying that it is reviewing China’s announcement to determine its impact on US seafood exports. NFI President John Connelly said “We are deeply disappointed in these retaliatory tariffs. There is no connection between the products targeted by the US and the tariffs Beijing plans to impose on exported American seafood. It is not clear where these trade actions will ultimately lead; what is clear is that they will negatively impact American seafood jobs.”
Products that are covered by the tariffs include frozen Alaska Pollock, Pacific cod, humpies and sockeye salmon and herring. It is uncertain whether the tariff would include reprocessed fish.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said she is very concerned about the impact of the Chinese tariffs on Alaska’s economy.
“In 2017 alone, Alaskan seafood exports were worth $3.45 billion, and of that, nearly $1 billion was exported to China,” she explained. “It’s imperative that our seafood industry, one of the economic drivers of our state, has the ability to continue competitively exporting their products all over the world” Murkowski said she is urging Trump to work toward a trade policy with China “that protects these critical markets for our seafood industry.”
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