Alaska’s seafood industry says the US-China trade war is costing it dearly

Homer boat harbor. (KBBI photo)

The trade war with China is impacting Alaska’s seafood industry. Alaska seafood exports to China have dropped by a fifth compared to last year.

Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s Jeremy Woodrow told the Alaska House Fisheries Committee Wednesday that the industry blames Chinese tariffs. That’s according to a recent industry survey.

“Of the members that responded back to us, 65 percent reported they had immediate lost sales from the increase of these tariffs, 50 percent reported delays in their sales, and 36 percent reported that they lost customers in China just due to these tariffs” Woodrow explained. “Another 21 percent reported that they had unanticipated costs because of the trade conflict.

Alaska sold nearly $800 million worth of seafood to China in 2017. Not all Alaska seafood is bound by the Chinese tariffs imposed in retaliation to the Trump administration’s own tariffs on Chinese goods. Flatfish like flounder are subject to tariffs though Alaska pink salmon processed in China and re-exported are not.

But Woodrow said poor relations between the two countries makes some Chinese buyers reluctant to buy Alaska seafood anyway. China is Alaska’s largest foreign market and Woodrow warned that finding new outlets will take time.

“I think everybody would love to be able to pivot and find new markets rather quickly, but the Chinese market is something that the Alaska seafood industry and ASMI has been actively engaging in for over two decades,” he said. “If we do get China back, that’s great. If not, we can expect it will take time to develop new markets.”

President Trump has said an end to the trade war with China is imminent. But on Wednesday top U.S. trade official told Congress he’s less optimistic.