FAIRBANKS — Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski recently complained about the Trump administration’s additional trade tariffs during a talk with U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Robert E. Lighthizer.
“It has clearly rattled my state,” Murkowski told Lighthizer. “Our seafood industry is the number one private industry in terms of the jobs and the economic opportunity it brings.”
China recently announced a 25 percent tariff on American seafood imports.
“Last year with our salmon exports about 40 percent of our salmon went to China over the last five years; it’s been about a half of our salmon has been exported to China,” Murkowski said. “And it’s not just the salmon. With cod, 54 percent of our cod (exports) last year went to China. So this is very, very significant to us.”
Murkowski noted that the effects on Alaska’s seafood industry are hitting more than just those who catch fish.
“We’re still trying to figure out what exactly what this means not only to our fishermen, but to the processors, the logistics industry — all aspects of the seafood supply chain,” Murkowski said. “And then the 10 percent retaliatory tariffs that were announced just last month put even more pressure on our seafood processors because many of our fish and shellfish that are harvested in the state are then processed in China before re-importing back to the U.S. for domestic distribution.”
Murkowski said in many ways, the U.S is “imposing a 10 percent tax on our own seafood.”
“Which is just a tough one to reconcile,” she added.
Murkowski questioned Lighthizer on how the Trump administration plans to address these trade issues and ensure the country’s seafood industry continues without additional hits.
Lighthizer noted that the effects of the tariffs are being felt outside Alaska as well but placed blame on China for retaliatory tariffs. He did not address the original trade duties Trump placed on China.
“First of all you’re right. It’s not just Alaska. We’ve heard from a number of states that have a problem,” Lighthizer said. “All of the retaliation in seafood has been from China because they believe it’s an effective political tool and that’s very unfair to the people that are in that industry. Much in the same way that agriculture has been targeted by others, but also primarily by China.”
Last week Trump announced $12 billion in aid for farmers to stem the effects of tariffs. Murkowski made a statement encouraging Trump to take a broader view of the impacts his administration’s trade policy is having on sectors such as the seafood and energy industries.
“The administration’s announcement of $12 billion in aid is an admission that tariffs are hurting, not helping, our country,” Murkowski said. “Yet, farmers are hardly the only ones caught in the crossfire — so, too, are our fishermen, the energy industry, and many others.”
Contact staff writer Erin Granger at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMPolitics.