Most Alaskans are surprised to learn that seafood is by far Alaska’s top export, the source of the state’s largest manufacturing base and its #1 private employer

More surprising is that those simple to find facts are not included in the official trade sheet for Alaska provided by the office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR).

The information on the USTR website, for example, incorrectly claims that petroleum and coal were Alaska’s top exports in 2018. But seafood has been state’s top export by far for decades.

“Seafood comprises over half of Alaska’s annual export value, averaging $3.3 billion annually over the past decade, averaging $5.6 billion from 20170-2018,” reports the Alaska Resource Development Council (RDC) on its fisheries page.

The USTR states that “Alaska goods exports in 2016 (latest year available) supported an estimated 37 thousand jobs.”

Wrong again.

Alaska’s seafood industry alone supports nearly 60,000 direct jobs and an additional 10,000 secondary jobs. And as the RDC points out, “seafood processing is the largest manufacturing sector in Alaska, accounting for 70% of Alaska’s manufacturing employment.”

But the federal trade reps have a different take.

Under the USTR category Made in America Manufacturing Exports from Alaska and Jobs, it states: “Other top manufacturing exports are transportation equipment ($68 million), food & kindred products ($23 million), computer & electronic products ($23 million), and machinery, except electrical ($23 million).

Who knew!

For the category Agriculture in Alaska Depends on Exports, the USTR claims that: “Alaska is the country’s 50th largest agricultural exporting state, shipping $17 million in domestic agricultural exports abroad in 2017.”

Alaska’s top agricultural products listed are “other plant products” ($14 million), “other livestock products” ($1 million), followed by “feeds and other grains, processed grain products, and beef and veal” ($326,000).

But Alaska is not alone in the seafood snub.

A review of other states’ official trade pages shows contributions by the industry are not mentioned for fishing powerhouses like Maine, Massachusetts or Louisiana and more.

And Hawaii will be surprised to learn that, according to the federal trade office, its largest exports also are petroleum and coal – although it has no reserves of either!

Overall, the USTR state trade data is poorly defined, loaded with incorrect facts and figures, provides no attribution, and each page looks like a sloppy cut and paste job tossed together with no expertise or interest.

Queries to USTR and other national trade spokespersons as to why the information has not been corrected have gone unanswered.

 

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