Alaska lawmakers urge officials to remove US-caught China-processed seafood from tariff list

Alaska’s congressional delegation has reached out to the U.S. Trade Representative, asking the federal government to reconsider a tariff decision that the lawmakers say will produce unintended consequences for the fishing industry in their state.

While U.S. Representative Don Young and U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan agree with the Trump administration’s objective in ending China’s unfair trade practices, they told U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in a letter dated 23 May they find the inclusion of reprocessed seafood products in the list of products subject to a 25 percent tariff “deeply troubling.”

The legislators note in the letter China plays a vital role as a partner for Alaska’s seafood industry. Because of labor shortages, salmon and cod caught in domestic waters are often sent to Chinese companies for processing before returning to the U.S. 

According to the letter, the delegation had a conversation between Lighthizer, Sullivan, and Murkowski, where the lawmakers claim the trade representative agreed with them that domestically-harvested seafood processed in China should not be considered for tariffs. However, on 10 May, the USTR listed such products on its tariff list, a move that came as a surprise.

“This unanticipated whiplash is creating tremendous uncertainty for our seafood industry in the months ahead, as they attempt to negotiate sales and contracts with the sudden looming threat of new, unforeseen duties on their products,” the lawmakers wrote.

A call to the USTR's office was not returned on Friday, 31 May.

Specifically, the delegation requested the USTR remove salmon, Pacific cod, flatfish, and rockfish from the tariff lists. In addition, they called for the inclusion of Alaska pollock imports from China because the name is a misnomer. Most of that pollock is actually comes from Russia and should be subject to the 25 percent levy.

“Most importantly, we ask that due to the precedent previously established by the determination of your agency, you take these actions expeditiously in your role as United States Trade Representative,” they added.

Failing to do so, the lawmakers warned, could lead to a loss of Congressional support if the tariffs end up harming American fishermen and businesses.   


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