Alaska

Trump's Trade War Could Kill Alaska's Seafood Industry

American farmers have already fallen victim to Trump's trade war with China. Could Alaskan fishermen be next?

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Marion Owen/Newscom

President Donald Trump's trade war with China has already hurt American farmers. Soon, Alaskan fishermen might suffer the consequences as well.

Alaska exports about $1 billion worth of seafood to China every year, according to Reuters. That's the result of years of diplomacy between the Alaskan and Chinese governments. Last year, for instance, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Alaska, and earlier this year, Alaska Gov. Bill Walker returned the favor.

Then in June, China responded to Trump's tariffs on Chinese goods with duties of their own—namely, 25 percent tariffs on a variety of American seafood exports.

According to the United Fishermen of Alaska, the biggest seafood trade group in the state, the burgeoning trade war could have "devastating" consequences. "This isn't an easily replaced market," the group's executive director, Frances Leach, tells Reuters. Leach expressed concern that "China is just going to stop buying Alaska fish."

Alan Noreide, a black cod and halibut fisherman based in the port town of Seward, expressed similar sentiments. "We'd rather be left to our own challenges that we have. We don't need any more," he tells Reuters.

Though Chinese consumers like Alaskan fish, higher prices could lead them to give their business to other countries, like Russia and Norway.

Alaska's concerns over Trump's trade war with China aren't new. "It has clearly rattled my state," Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R–Alaska) told U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Robert E. Lighthizer last month, referring to Trump's tariffs. "Our seafood industry is the number one private industry in terms of the jobs and the economic opportunity it brings."

Murkowski indicated fishermen in her state should get the same treatment as American farmers, to whom the Trump administration is giving $12 billion in subsidies to offset the harm done by tariffs. "The administration's announcement of $12 billion in aid is an admission that tariffs are hurting, not helping, our country," the Alaska Republican said. "Yet, farmers are hardly the only ones caught in the crossfire—so, too, are our fishermen, the energy industry, and many others."

It's not just the Alaskan fishing industry that should be worried, the National Fisheries Institute (NFI) said in June, right after China announced its seafood tariffs. "It is not clear where these trade actions will ultimately lead, what is clear is that they will negatively impact American seafood jobs," NFI President John Connelly said in a statement at the time. "It is Maine lobstermen, the men and women on boats in Alaska and families harvesting and processing seafood in the Pacific Northwest who will feel the brunt of the Administration's misguided policy."

It doesn't look like Trump's trade war is going to end anytime soon. Last month, the administration announced plans to impose tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods. China responded last week by imposing 25 percent tariffs on $16 billion worth of U.S. exports.

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88 responses to “Trump's Trade War Could Kill Alaska's Seafood Industry

  1. Libertarians just don’t get it. Trump is playing twelve dimensional chess with his trade war. First he offered free trade and they refused. So to punish them he is taxing Americans who buy imports. Nothing hurts foreigners more than taxing your own people. In response the foreigners will eliminate taxes on American imports. Well, after they enact a bunch of tariffs on American goods to which Trump will respond by taxing Americans more to which foreigners will respond by taxing their people more, and so on and so forth until we get free trade!

    1. *Yawn*. That it? You got anything new?

      Wake me if you do.

    2. Know anyone in the lobster biz, Sarc? It’s not just Alaskans who are worried…

      1. As a matter of fact, yes. I will ask them about this at my next opportunity.

        1. Sarcasmic loves his bridge butter to go on lobster.

    3. Its a war, according to you people.

      American should win then.

      I am still waiting for the Reason article of all the millions of businesses that not put out of business by tariffs.

      Or the article about how trade restrictions pre-Trump were a boon to American business.

      Or the article about how American business owners who wanted to expand into China and the EU should go fuck themselves because we need to keep America’s managed trade status quo.

      1. You will be waiting for a long time if you expect people to defend straw man arguments that you thrust upon them.

        1. I thought that I would try it, since you do it all the time.

          I figured I would mentioned some fun articles that Reason commenters might like.

      2. I am still waiting for the Reason article of all the millions of businesses that not put out of business by

        Obamacare
        the EPA
        minimum wage laws
        licensing requirements
        zoning laws
        eminent domain
        etc.

      3. Companies are free to sell to China if they want to. Why should we tax our people because they tax their people?

  2. These articles are starting to read like MadLibs from Mad Magazine.

    1. Reason is even get so unoriginal that the fill-in words are the same every time.

      1. Why don’t you two get a room?

        1. We would but Seyton is giving YOU the business so the room is occupado.

    2. “Trump’s Trade War Could Kill *Fill in the Blank* Industry”

      File every Monday morning.

  3. So, they couldn’t sell their seafood anywhere else? Moreover, seafood is pretty fungible. If China stops buying its seafood from Alaska and buys it from someone else, the customers who were buying that seafood are going to still want to buy it. Maybe it is not an easily replaced market as claimed but that hardly seems certain.

    These things are never as simple as portrayed.

    1. Reason is trying very hard to do so.

      Because Trump bad! Open borders good! Unilateral tariffs on America good!

    2. You’re totally right! These fisherman should thank Trump for eliminating this market for their products! Nothing make businesses prosper more than driving away customers! He’s a genius!

    3. Yeah but the point is this disruption is totally unnecessary, like many state interventions in the free market.

      1. Sure. But, disruption is not the same as killing it. The thing about fishing is that the limits are set by treaty and government regulation. So, Norway and Russia can’t produce more fish. There are only so many fish to be had. So if China goes and buys its fish from Norway and Russia, that necessarily comes at the expense of whoever is buying that fish now. It really is a zero-sum game.

        So, I don’t see how the Chinese market is not replaceable.

        1. Not only that, but people are more likely to buy something the more it costs! Because cost equals quality! By causing the price of Alaskan fish to go up, Trump will actually increase demand! Because the higher price will be interpreted to mean higher quality! Twelve dimensional chess! He’s a genius!

          1. Sure they are. But how much less likely depends on the market and how price elastic the demand is. Understand that the “cost” of these tariffs to Chinese consumers is the difference between what they are paying now and what they would have to pay to buy their fist from Russia and Norway, which is likely a lot lower than 20%. If you assume that the people no longer buying their fish from Russia and Norway now buy it from Alaska, their extra cost is whatever that difference is. Will that suppress demand for fish? Maybe. But I doubt it would do enough to destroy the entire industry.

            The answer to this question is not simple.

            1. But I doubt it would do enough to destroy the entire industry.

              Oh, I agree. That was total hyperbole on the author’s part. However this isn’t going to do them any good either. It is conceivable that some of these fishing boats that are operating on razor thin margins will go belly up, so to speak, as a result of lowered demand for an artificially higher priced product.

            2. Markets are assumed to be efficient. Commodities markets tend to be pretty highly efficient.

              This is adding a distortion to the efficient market.

              Therefore, markets are less efficient, and we are poorer.

          2. The costs of fish was already higher than market price. Regulations and trade restrictions pre-Trump were a bitch.

            1. Know what’s also a bitch? Population collapse. The tragedy of the commons.

        2. Trump dicksuckers like you and me know that only one thing is important, John. Keeping Dear Leader happy– no matter what. These people don’t understand our love and intense desire to have Dear Leader explode the contents of his mighty phallus all over our willing and waiting tits, John. They don’t know what they’re missing, do they? Sucks to be them.

    4. In Maine, the lobster industry has enjoyed steeply rising exports to China over the past few years… mostly attributed to the rapidlly-growing Chinese middle class (Undercurrents News has been following this trend, for those wanting to read more). This has meant new business start-ups, and expansions for existing businesses. One business, for instance, hired several Mandarin-speakers to beef-up its sales force.

      The tariffs undo US producers’ price advantage over Canadians’, so lobster shippers on both sides of the border are expecting sales to shift North. Maine exporters have talked about moving to other Asian markets, but none have the dynamics of China. So it remains to be seen a) how much sales to China will be affected, b) whether alternate Asian markets can make up any difference, and c) the costs to exporters to re-align their businesses to new countries.

      Nobody thinks Maine lobstering will die as a result of the tariffs, but it’s certainly a shame to see this happen in a state that otherwise doesn’t have terrific economic prospects.

      1. More time for lobsters to get bigger due to lower harvesting yields and Chinese pay more for lobsters?

        Sounds like a win-win-win for the USA.

  4. Though Chinese consumers like Alaskan fish, higher prices could lead them to give their business to other countries, like Russia…

    So you’re saying Trump is a Putin agent.

  5. Where did Reason find this guy, anyway? On a street corner carrying a sign that said, “The world will end tomorrow”?

    1. I think we should take a step back and consider the fact tariffs and protectionism still plays a significant part in trade negotiations. Countries still maintain high tariffs on various goods. On average, Canada and the EU, I believe, have higher tariffs on a broader range off goods and services. Just here in North America we have inter-state and provincial trade barriers. I would think we should set our sights in our back yards and open that up first. It strikes me as a little too ambitious, if not naive, to think we can have ‘true free trade’ on a global scale. How about establishing a real free trade market between Canada and the USA first and go from there?

      In this way, yes what Trump is doing may turn out to be counter-productive but I’m not going to get agitated over it either if my assertion above is somewhat correct.

  6. Trump’s Trade War Could Kill Alaska’s Seafood Industry

    Hyperbole much?

    Try hurt, not kill, and the Trumpistas might be more receptive.

    Or not.

    1. Right? This whole “If if anything changes then we will never have this industry again!” stuff is unproductive. It doesn’t seem to change minds already in favor of the change. Since admitting a policy may have been a poorly thought out plan appears to be mostly beyond folks, “If we persist then we kill a vital industry” tends to get a response of “We can’t lose vital industry, ergo we must subsidize it to withstand this policy”.

  7. Oops. Wasn’t meant as a reply to UHGG.

    I think we should take a step back and consider the fact tariffs and protectionism still plays a significant part in trade negotiations. Countries still maintain high tariffs on various goods. On average, Canada and the EU, I believe, have higher tariffs on a broader range off goods and services. Just here in North America we have inter-state and provincial trade barriers. I would think we should set our sights in our back yards and open that up first. It strikes me as a little too ambitious, if not naive, to think we can have ‘true free trade’ on a global scale. How about establishing a real free trade market between Canada and the USA first and go from there?

    In this way, yes what Trump is doing may turn out to be counter-productive but I’m not going to get agitated over it either if my assertion above is somewhat correct.

    1. The War on Drugs really make North American trade restrictive. Every shipment of goods is a potential drug shipment.

      I agree that Canada, USA, and Mexico should work on getting free trade or as close to it as they can get. Mexico has cheap labor but needs better trained tech people for North America to compete with China. If North America could pull of a free trade situation, we would blow the EUs doors off.

      China is very dependent on the USA to buy their cheap shit.

      1. I agree that Canada, USA, and Mexico should work on getting free trade or as close to it as they can get.

        Maybe they could call it the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA for short.

        1. I knew some dipshit would write that. Funny that its you first Sarcasmic.

          NAFTA was not free trade. It was a manged trade agreement in North America.

          1. or as close to it as they can get

            1. You said free trade and you lied.

              You got caught, so then you change it to “or as close to it as they can get”.

              I want free trade- 100%. Since people like YOU dont want free trade, I am also a pragmatist and know that lower than NAFTA trade restrictions is the best the USA can hope for.

              1. How about a customs union, ie the EU without the common currency? Who would say no?

        2. I don’t find it’s all the ‘freeish’.

          A) NAFTA doesn’t address the contradiction of inter state and provincial trade.

          B) NAFTA doesn’t really touch us on the personal level I think. I should be able to bring back into my country goods and services without limitation. For example, I’m only allowed a certain amount measured by ounces of bourbon – which is basically one bottle.

          1. These are some of the NAFTA rules
            Canada- NAFTA

            CBP- NAFTA

    2. What, some sort of North American Free Trade Agreement? That’s commie loser talk. We need a deal that benefits Americans and only Americans. Trump knows deals, he knows deals where both sides benefit are bad deals because if the other side is happy it just means you left something on the table. The only good deal is one where the other side is unhappy, there’s no such thing as a win/win situation.

      1. He’s playing eleventy-dimensional chessers, duh

    3. I don’t see any persuasive evidence that Trump wants free trade with China.

      His attitude towards Mexico, Canada, and the EU is different, but I don’t think Trump’s tariffs against China are a means to an end. I think they’re an end in themselves.

      Trump doesn’t want China manufacturing goods and sending them to the U.S. to compete with American manufactured goods. There was an argument to make that Trump might be willing to settle for China’s help in disarming a nuclear North Korea, but, if anything, that seems to be the exception to the general rule.

      1. I believe you are correct.

      2. Trump doesn’t want China manufacturing goods and sending them to the U.S. to compete with American manufactured goods.

        People buy stuff from China because it costs less. They have a comparative advantage. To produce it here will be comparatively wasteful, since someone else can do it at a lower cost. But as any protectionist will tell you, waste makes wealth. That’s why they want imports to be more expensive. The less stuff you can buy, the wealthier you are!

        1. To be clear, I’m not saying I agree with Trump on trade with China.

          Trump is woefully wrong on both immigration and trade.

          I don’t agree with what Trump wants, but I think that’s what he wants.

          He isn’t slapping tariffs on China as a means to achieve some greater end. More tariffs on China. That’s the end goal itself.

          1. He isn’t slapping tariffs on China as a means to achieve some greater end.

            But, but, but so many people right here in the comments say that his goal is free trade! He offered free trade and they refused! So by starting a trade war he’s going to bring free trade! Twelve dimensional chess!

            Aaaauuugghhh!

            1. In their defense, I think it may really be like that with the EU and Canada.

              1. I hope so. The price of lumber and stinky cheese is through the roof.

                1. Yet people are still buying all those tariffed goods.

                  Yet the USA economy is getting stronger by the day.

                  Must mean that what you are saying is wrong.

                  Must mean that Trump is partly right. He can pressure trading partners to get lower trade restrictions and the US economy will get stronger.

                  1. Yet people are still buying all those tariffed goods.

                    Yes and no. Some people are willing to pay more. Some buy less. Some find a substitute, and some go without.

                    Regardless, their money no longer goes as far as it used to.

                    Protectionism: the -ism which teaches that waste makes wealth

                    1. You’re right on one account.

                      All the trade restrictions pre-Trump led to people’s money not going as far as it used to.

                    2. There were tariffs before, sarc! It wasn’t restriction free! If you complain about new restrictions then you have to defend the old restrictions because… um… because…

                      Help me out here. I’m coming up with a blank.

                    3. YOU complain about TRUMP and I have never seen you mention the old trade restrictions as a problem like the Trump tariffs.

                      I had to explain free trade to you that it means both sides of the trading relationship having no trade restrictions.

                      You can even be for the old trade restriction levels and not like Trump tariffs. Just be honest about it. Certainly dont try and misrepresent my positions as I will expose you for the liar you are every time.

                    4. YOU complain about TRUMP and I have never seen you mention the old trade restrictions as a problem like the Trump tariffs.

                      Um, ok. Being that the subject is the new trade restrictions and what they are doing to businesses, I wasn’t aware that I had to. In fact I still see no reason to. It’s not what we’re talking about.

                      I had to explain free trade to you that it means both sides of the trading relationship having no trade restrictions.

                      I had to explain to you that unilateral free trade is better than trade restrictions because it allows hundreds of millions of consumers to buy stuff at the lowest price. Not that you give a shit about Adam Smith or Bastiat.

                      You can even be for the old trade restriction levels and not like Trump tariffs. Just be honest about it.

                      Again with the non sequitur.

                      Certainly dont try and misrepresent my positions as I will expose you for the liar you are every time.

                      You’re one to lecture about misrepresenting someone’s position. Yeah, buddy. Sure…

  8. “Trump’s Trade War Could Kill Alaska’s Seafood Industry”

    I’m sure the industry would be adversely affected by tariffs. It might even shrink Alaska’s seafood industry.

    The suggestion that Asians and the rest of the world will stop wanting seafood entirely if its hit with a tariff is probably an overstatement.

    And it makes it less likely that people will take whatever you wrote under such a headline seriously.

  9. nobody but the Chinese wants Alaskan seafood?

    1. No.

      If it isn’t exported to China, it’s worthless.

      100% of the industry and the value of those resources will vanish overnight.

      It’s science.

    2. The Chinese want it more and pay the best prices to get it. The Chinese don’t have the same problems with American imports that Americans have with Chinese, they can be fairly confident the seafood isn’t contaminated with mercury, thorium, industrial solvents, or the guy that fell into the fish processing machinery.

    3. Seafood is perishable. It may take a season to two to work out new trade deals with alternate customers, but in the meantime that fish gets dumped because it can’t get sold. And fishermen don’t make any money. On razor thin margins. And at the rate Trump is going, those new trade deals next year might get stymied as well.

      Acting like this is nothing is stupid. You don’t take a hammer to American producers and not expect to see a few broken noses as the result.

      1. Unfortunately, Americans producers were recovering from bloodied noses from the past hammer blows pre-Trump.

  10. As long as Trump doesn’t slap taxes on seaweed snacks I’ll be happy.

    Seriously, anyone else try those things? I’m hooked.

    1. I was on a long range trip through the desert in my girlfriend’s car when the a/c went out. Had to roll the windows down. It was 113 degrees outside. I was so fucking thirsty, I couldn’t believe it.

      I pulled over at some The Hills Have Eyes looking convenience store/gas station to get something to drink. When my girlfriend got back in the car, she’d bought a package of salted plums, a box of seaweed chips, and a large bottle of Clamato.

      That’s when I first realized she was possessed by the devil.

    2. My first experience with them (similar to Ken in some weird way) – I’m taking a date to the park and she asks if we can get some snacks. We go into the healthmart place (because it is actually better and the same price as regular grocery stores in my neighborhood), and she grabs four fucking bags of seaweed chips. So there I am, with $16 worth of fucking seaweed snack packs. That’s when I noticed she hadn’t shaved her legs. Well, she may have looked like the wife from Homeland, but too far is too far.

      The seaweed snacks were ok but I’d rather just eat funyons. Fuck it. I’m uncouth sometimes.

      1. I get mine at the local Asian market. A buck and a half for a big bag. They’re full of unhealthy shit like salt and MSG, and come in flavors like kimchi and spicy squid. Love it.

      2. Well, she may have looked like the wife from Homeland

        As in “I’ll be in my bunk” Morena? I think I could tolerate unshaven legs for some of that action.

  11. Alaska exports about $1 billion worth of seafood to China every year, according to Reuters. That’s the result of years of diplomacy between the Alaskan and Chinese governments.

    Sounds like a free market to me. -Reason Magazine

    Is this like the usual tariff article from Reason where we pretend that the buyers in this ‘free market’ aren’t China International Fish and Hatchery (or whatever) a wholly-owned subsidiary of the China Investment Corporation?

    1. We all are told over and over that the USA had free trade with China and the EU before Trump came along and wrecked that.

  12. The issue, with which the Trump-hating Left and (sadly) reason seem unwilling to grapple, is that China has been waging a ‘Trade War’ with us since trade with them resumed. They impose tariffs, they steal intellectual property, and in general they have gotten away with it because anyone who proposes we do something about it is accused of wanting to start a Trade War. Well, we’re IN a Trade War. The only question remaining is, do we want to force a cease-fire?

    1. And they buy senators!

      See article in the Federalist about Diane Feinstein – key figure in granting China most favored nation status

      1. Hope you dont mind, I linked the article. It really sends the Lefties into tailspins link things that utterly destroy the corrupt Lefty politicians.
        The federalist- Diana Feinstein article

      2. BTW, I hope the FBI is cleared out to make room for objective law enforcement to investigate this. If it turns out Feinstein is neck deep in this, she should be charged. The federal government should transport her to a far off district court for trial, so (1) the state can find an unbiased jury and (2) she is kept in a shithole holding cell. Statists like her are fine with most defendants enduring the same thing.

  13. Trump’s Trade War Could Kill Alaska’s Seafood Industry
    American farmers have already fallen victim to Trump’s trade war with China.

    Pfft… who cares? When I see the look in Dear Leader’s eyes on his twitter page I just want to hold him, caress his sweet man tits, and whisper sweet-nothings into his piss-colored rupee. What we’ve got together is a love like no other until John came along and decided to stick his tongue right up Trump’s asshole and take him away from me.

  14. Cut taxes…turn around and raise taxes. Trump is a genius!

  15. “It is Maine lobstermen, the men and women on boats in Alaska and families harvesting and processing seafood in the Pacific Northwest who will feel the brunt of the Administration’s misguided policy.”

    Lobster girl hardest hit.

    1. Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

  16. Any government meddling with the economy leads to more government meddling with the economy.
    It might as well be axiomatic.
    Tariffs are meddling.
    They lead to subsidies and tax code manipulation.

    1. Problems created by too much government can only be solved with more government. Duh.

  17. This is what the Trumptarians don’t understand: You can’t be a Great Exporting Nation without exports, and you can’t have exports when you cut off imports. Who’s going to trade with us when we punish trading with us?

    1. Everyone. The USA is the greatest market in the World.

      All our trading partners will cave and lower trade restrictions. Trump will have been right that he can get them to lower trade restrictions.

      1. Outside of international trade this theory is known as “Mutually Assured Destruction”.

        1. No its not.

          Its actually called negotiating. Business people do similar stuff all the time. Some business people use every available legal method to get a good deal on a trade.

          Some people at a yard sale ask about a price, suggest a lower counter offer, and walk away if the seller wont go down.

          Some people use local government to prevent land owners from building until the developer sells the land cheap to a local who then ‘convinces’ local government to okay development.

          Some people make low balls offers to buy property with those in dire straits.

          Some people do the ‘walk out’ at car dealerships to get the price lower on December 31.

          Some people undercut their competitors prices to drive them out of business.

          1. Some people use taxes to make consumers pay more for imported goods.

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