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Business/Economy

Governor launches trade mission to China with Alaska businesses

  • Author: Alex DeMarban
  • Updated: May 22, 2018
  • Published May 21, 2018

Gov. Bill Walker's trade mission to China begins this week after dozens of Alaska business representatives and state officials traveled there to try to strengthen ties with Alaska's largest trading partner.

Chinese officials and entities will be meeting with more than 25 Alaska businesses, according to a statement from Walker on Monday.  Representatives from Alaska's seafood, mining, tourism, craft brewing and other industries are part of the mission.

"It's a well-timed trip, since yesterday the U.S. and China announced they'd be taking a step back from a rumored trade war, and China committed to importing more American goods to reduce the U.S. trade deficit," Walker's statement said.

China is Alaska's top trading partner, and top Chinese entities are considering making major investments in the $43 billion Alaska LNG project that would ship Alaska liquefied natural gas to China and other Asian countries.

Walker has sought to boost the amount of products Alaska already exports to China, valued at $1.3 billion in 2017 and dominated primarily by sales of Alaska seafood.

The list of businesses on the trip looking for export opportunities with China included small companies such as Bambino's Baby Food and 49th State Brewing Co., and large firms such as Icicle Seafoods, with operations throughout Alaska.

On Monday, Walker and other officials from the U.S. met with Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He in Beijing at the fourth China-U.S. governors' forum, according to China Daily.

The talks included strengthening U.S.-China cooperation in areas such as trade and "green development," China Daily said.

The trade mission will last more than a week with a "very aggressive" meeting schedule, according to an email from Bill Popp, head of the Anchorage Economic Development Corp., who is part of the mission.

On Monday, the delegation met with Jim Mullinax, U.S. consul general in Chengdu, for a briefing on economic opportunities in south China. That region is experiencing rapid growth and growing affluence, Popp's email said.

"Quality is more and more on the minds of Chinese consumers in this region and Alaska wild seafood is seeing growing demand, as are many other food and agriculture products the U.S. is selling to this region," Popp said in the email.

Popp said the delegation consisted of nearly 50 Alaskans, including many Alaska business officials and members of the governor's staff.

China is already Alaska's biggest importer, but there could be more room for growth in items that the expanding middle class in China might want, said Sean Carpenter, AEDC spokesperson.

Popp is focused on "meeting with various company officials in China to figure out their needs, and see if we can meet them," Carpenter said, from Anchorage on Monday.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said more than 35 Alaska businesses were part of the trade mission to China. In fact, it is more than 25. 

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