Seafood is Alaska’s largest export by far, usually topping more than $3 billion annually.
China has been Alaska’s biggest export partner for seven years. China purchased nearly $800 million worth of Alaska seafood last year, an increase of 27 percent.
The industry is waiting to see how Donald Trump’s $60 billion in trade tariffs with China will affect Alaska’s seafood sales, but backlash is likely. Tariffs are taxes on imports that make them more expensive for consumers.
“In general, access to international markets is a huge deal for Alaska and anything that restricts trade is generally a negative for the seafood industry.”
Garrett Evridge is a seafood analyst for the McDowell Group.
“Often when the U.S. goes down this road, other countries will reciprocate with the same industry. If China reciprocates with tariffs, that will raise the cost of all seafood products in those markets.”
Evridge pointed to Trump’s pull-out last year of the Trans-Pacific Partnership which would have been the world’s largest trade agreement with 11 countries, covering 40 percent of the global economy.
The seafood tariffs across those countries now range from 3.5 to 11 percent. Those were set to be lowered or eliminated under the TPP. Ron Rogness is with American Seafoods Company whose fleets fish for pollock in the Bering Sea.
“In our instance, in the two products we were interested in – pollock surimi and roe – there were 4.2 percent rates of duty on both of those. It was widely reported that those two tariffs going into Japan would immediately go to zero.”
The 3.5 percent tax on Alaska sockeye salmon also would have been zeroed out, and gradually phased out for other salmon species.
Likewise, tariffs on king and snow crab, herring roe and cod also would have gone to zero prior to the TPP pull out.
In another Trump trade imbalance, the U.S. continues to import millions of pounds of seafood from Russia, despite its embargo on U.S. seafood purchases since 2013. That country used to be a $60 million Alaska seafood customer.
Trade data from NOAA Fisheries show for last year through January 2018, the U.S. bought more than 68 million pounds of seafood from Russia, valued at $470 million.
Red king crab, snow crab, cod and frozen sockeye were the seafood products Russia sent to the U.S.