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Business/Economy

Walker administration unveils trade mission to grow exports to China

Gov. Bill Walker Monday said his administration is organizing a trade mission to take Alaska businesses to China in May in hope of boosting exports with Alaska's largest trading partner.

Alaska exported $1.3 billion worth of products to China in 2017 – including $800 million in seafood — up from $1.2 billion in 2016.

That's well beyond the $812 million in goods sent to Japan in 2017, the state's second-largest trading partner, said Shelley James, director of Alaska's Office of International Trade.

The mission will build on Alaska's growing ties with China, Walker said.

The state on Monday launched a competitive application process on the governor's web page for Alaska businesses wishing to join the mission. The delegation will meet with industry and government officials in China May 19-26, Walker said.

"It's very competitive out there with other states wanting to get their products into the Asian marketplace," Walker said at a press conference Monday.

The application process, through April 2, will prioritize businesses with existing relationships with Chinese buyers, the state said in a release.

James said the goal is to have about 10 to 15 businesses participating.

The costs are unknown, officials said. James, along with Mike Navarre, commissioner for Commerce, Community and Economic Development, will accompany the delegation.

Companies must pay travel and lodging costs, and a $3,000 participating fee to cover interpreter expenses and other needs.

"We anticipate this being predominantly private sector folks paying their own way to participate," Walker said.

James said Walker had the idea after President Donald Trump led a trade mission to China in November, meeting with President Xi Jinping. Major Chinese-owned entities agreed then to consider investing in the state's $43 billion project to move gas off the North Slope.

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