It’s been two years since President Trump started a trade war by imposing taxes on US seafood going to China – taxes that are paid by Americans, not the Chinese.

Seafood is Alaska’s largest export by far, comprising over 30 percent, and the tariffs have  added up to huge losses from our biggest trading partner.

An analysis by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute shows that exports to China reached the highest level ever in 2017, at nearly $1 Billion ($988 million).

By 2018, Alaska seafood exports dropped by $204 million, the largest year over year decrease ever. And by 2019, sales to China were at the lowest level since 2010 at $702 million.

That’s a drop by over $250 million in two years.

During the same time, China saw a 91% increase in seafood imports from other nations such as Russia, Norway, Canada and New Zealand, going from $8.1 billion to $15.4 billion.

While the exact amount varies by species and product, ASMI said the average tax on Alaska seafood entering China is 38%.

For comparison, it’s 8% for  Norway, Russia and Canada is 8%; Chile and New Zealand pay zero seafood tax to China.

There’s been explosive growth of Chinese people eating seafood since the tariffs were enacted, ASMI said, with sales jumping from $8.1 billion to $15.4 billion since 2018.

But that growing appetite is being filled with seafood from elsewhere than Alaska or the US.

Added to the trade squeeze with China, the US seafood industry also continues to compete with less expensive imports from Russia. Trade data show the US imported nearly $700 worth of Russian-caught seafood in 2019, although that country has embargoed all seafood US imports since 2014.

Combine US trade policies that are clearly at odds with backing the seafood industry, mix in crippling and ongoing market impacts from Covid-19 and it adds up to a triple whammy for Alaska’s fishermen and coastal communities.

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