Walker seeks to deepen trade ties with China

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker watches Alaska Gasline Development Corporation President Keith Meyer talk to reporters during a press conference on March 5, 2018, in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Alaska Public Media)

Alaska exported more than $1.3 billion worth of goods to China last year. The country is the top consumer of Alaska’s goods.

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During a press conference in Anchorage on Monday, Gov. Bill Walker said he wants to increase those trade ties. Walker hosted the Chinese President Xi Jinping, in Alaska last year. 

Walker also detailed a new trade mission he called Opportunity Alaska: China Trade Mission. There are still some details to work out, he said, like who is going.

“We anticipate that this being predominantly private sector folks that will be paying their own way to participate in that,” Walker said.

The governor’s office is taking applications until early April from Alaska companies that want to travel with the state’s delegation. In addition to the cost of airfare, hotels and meals, there is a $3,000 fee to take part in the mission, according to a media release from Walker’s office.

Alaska’s Gasline Development Corporation (AGDC) is also seeking to partner with China. The state is working to develop a massive liquefied natural gas export project and hopes to partner with an investment bank, sovereign wealth fund and a China-owned oil company. Walker and AGDC head Keith Meyer said they don’t expect looming steel and aluminum import tariffs will derail the pipeline, even though the 800-mile pipeline project is expected to use thousands of tons of steel.

Meyer said he does not expect the tariffs to add much cost to the $45 billion project.

“The heart of the issue is trade and that is where I think, really, Alaska stands tall as being really an export powerhouse to the United States. And, if we get this Alaska trade rolling then I don’t think there’s need for that kind of tough trade talk,” Meyer said.

During the conference, state officials also highlighted a new scholarship program for Alaska students to study abroad in China. And they spoke of increasing tourism and the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport seeking to add more flights to China.