While the U.S.and China have put a halt to a trade war and have agreed not to place tariffs on one another, Alaska Governor Bill Walker is in China to expand his state’s trade.
“We are calling this ‘Opportunity Alaska’. I still believe the timing is good to increase activity with our largest trading partner,” Walker said in an interview prior to leading a trade delegation that includes representatives of fisheries, tourism and investment businesses, as well as a baby-food maker, an architectural firm and a university. The tour started on Saturday and ends May 30 with scheduled stops in Beijing, Chengdu and Shanghai.
Alaska exported $4.93 billion of goods in 2017 with more than $1.32 billion going to China, Alaska’s largest export partner for several years.
Because of its northern location, Alaska has one of the most productive fisheries in the world, and China is the biggest customer for Alaskan seafood, buying more than $796 million last year.
“Seafood is our biggest export, and we think there is room to increase that even more,” Walker said.
Alaska also has an abundance of natural resources, including oil and natural gas, along with minerals and timber. Walker believes the state can increase its exports to China as the nation seeks cleaner fuel sources of energy.
Tourism also is another area that Walker said is poised for expansion. “Our tourism would benefit if there were direct flights from China to Alaska. The Chinese have a strong interest in our natural wonders,” he said.
Bill Popp is executive director of the Anchorage Economic Development Corp (AEDC), which will be part of the trade delegation. He said the state’s largest city already has strong economic ties to China, with several China-based cargo airlines moving products through Anchorage International Airport (ANC).
“Over 75 percent of the air cargo entering North America from Asia transits through Anchorage International Airport first before reaching its final destination. Imports from China comprise 46 percent of all Anchorage (air cargo) value,” he wrote in an email.
Popp said the AEDC will seek new ties with Chinese businesses interested in using ANC as an air-cargo logistics center.
“AEDC will also seek to support Alaska-based exports from Alaska to China that would pass through ANC and the Port of Alaska, which is based in Anchorage, including seafood products, specialized equipment manufactured in Anchorage related to oilfield control systems, and other locally produced food products,” he said.