US senator from Alaska speaks out against Trump tariffs

Published on
August 27, 2018

If the Trump administration is serious about putting “America First,” then it must consider what the proposed 25 percent tariff on Chinese products will do to the Alaskan seafood industry. That was the message U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan delivered last week at a public hearing held by the U.S. International Trade Commission.

The Alaska Republican testified his state is currently caught in the crossfire as the world’s two largest economies consider hiking levies on goods imported from each other. 

Sullivan said nearly USD 1 billion (EUR 859.4 million) in U.S. seafood ultimately destined for American consumers is being targeted by these tariffs. That’s because frozen fish, after it’s initially processed in the States, is sent to China to be filleted because it is more cost-effective. Most of that is caught by Alaskan fishermen.

Sullivan likened the fish to an American car made in the U.S. by local workers, only to have the final detailing performed in China before its sent back to dealerships here. The Trump administration wouldn’t consider increasing tariffs on those automobiles, Sullivan said.

“If this were Chinese fish, harvested by Chinese fishermen on Chinese vessels, then perhaps I would understand,” Sullivan said. “But it isn’t and Alaskan fishermen are the ultimate American small business: They work hard, are family-owned and take tremendous risks to produce a great product. The mere proposal of these tariffs have already engendered uncertainty by seafood companies and caused cancellations and delay.”

In addition to impacting seafood that ultimately ends up on American plates, the tariff talk is also causing China and other countries to consider getting seafood from other sources, including Russia, Sullivan said. As roughly 60 percent of the U.S. seafood is caught in Alaska, the uncertainty about exports will have a tremendous impact on his state.

Sullivan said he understood the intent behind the measures and that he supported the idea of what he called “unfair and non-reciprocal trading practices” by China. It’s just that Trump’s plan now may cause some collateral damage as it hurts some of the very workers the administration strives to protect.

“The current proposal advantages Chinese and Russian fishermen over American fishermen and I am sure that was not the administration’s intent,” Sullivan said. “I respectfully request that you change it.”

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